The Holy Spirit as “Restrainer” in 2 Thessalonians 2?

(In this post I had to go into the weeds a bit. My goal is to have trimmed them to a level the reader can see the path I made—to allow the reader to see the forest beyond the weeds. I hope I’ve achieved it.)

Quite a few issues hinder identifying “the restrainer” in 2 Thessalonians 2:6 and 2:7. A fair number of theologians argue for the Holy Spirit in these two verses. And some of these do so based on a questionable pronoun argument. From this shaky foundation the Holy Spirit is imported into the context. This then is used by some as support for the pre-tribulation “Rapture” doctrine.

One shaky foundation upon another.

The Dubious Pronoun Argument

I’ve touched on this dubious pronoun argument elsewhere (Misgendering the Spirit, which has a basis in Another Paraclete?). To briefly identify the issue:

The Greek word for “Spirit” is pneuma, which is neuter in grammatical gender. Because the term is neuter, a literal English translation of the pronouns substituted for pneuma would be “it” or “which” (instead of the personal “whom”). For example, in Acts 5:32, we would translate “we are His witnesses of these words, and so is the Holy Spirit (pneuma), which God gave to those obeying Him [Jesus].” And some deny the personhood of the Holy Spirit simply because pneuma is neuter. But this erroneously imposes English grammar notions upon the Greek.

Some, accepting this error, attempt to counter it by construing (erroneously) a different way to promote the personhood of the Spirit. In John 14:16—16:15 the Holy Spirit is also called another “paraclete” (paraklētos), which is masculine in grammatical gender. In addition, there are a number of masculine pronouns throughout this section. Consequently, some have mistakenly assumed that at least some of these masculine pronouns refer back to pneuma instead of “paraclete”, thus (also erroneously) implying personhood. But it is context that establishes personhood—not pronouns. Moreover, these masculine pronouns all refer back to “paraclete” or to a masculine pronoun substituting for “paraclete”.

An analogy will illustrate the problem with this argument. The term logos, “word”, is a grammatically masculine noun. If we impose English grammar rules upon the Greek here, then every occurrence of logos, would be translated “he” or “him”. This works fine for “the Word” as the pre-incarnate Jesus in John 1:1-14. But it doesn’t work in Mark 4:16, which would be “…whenever they hear the word (ho logos) they immediately receive him (autos) with joy.” This context is about the Gospel message, which should more properly be “it” (not “him”) in English.

The 1977 movie The Car provides a different angle. While the noun “car” in English is “it”—a thing—The Car as portrayed in the movie is a sentient, willful being. So, does The Car have personhood? The Car, which self-drives, certainly has a mind of its own—even mockingly ‘laughing’ via the car horn.1 Or should we instead say, ‘The Car, who self-drives, certainly has a mind of his own’? ‘A mind of her own’? Do pronouns—whichever we apply—affect the consciousness, the volition of The Car in the movie?

Also consider the many ships named after humans (Queen Elizabeth II; Edmund Fitzgerald). Though we may call them individually “she” or “he” according to name, each is still “it” in English. Unless fictionally personalized as in The Car, none are sentient beings.

Grammar Limits Importing the Holy Spirit into 2 Thessalonians

Those relying on the pronoun argument for 2 Thessalonians 2 do so because there are two different grammatical genders used for “the restrainer”. One is neuter (2:6: to katechon), the other masculine (2:7: ho katechōn). To account for this, Robert L. Thomas argues:

To one familiar with Jesus’ Upper Room Discourse, as Paul undoubtedly was, fluctuation between neuter and masculine recalls how the Holy Spirit is referred to. Either gender is appropriate, depending on whether the speaker (or writer) thinks of natural agreement (masculine because of the Spirit’s personality [Jn 14:26; 15:26; 16:13—14; cf. Robertson, Grammar of the New Testament, 708-9]) or grammatical (neuter because of the noun pneuma…). This identification of the restainer…is most appealing.2

To support his stance, Thomas sources Robertson’s respected grammar. We will critique Robertson’s argument—and by extension Thomas’—with respect to the verses in John after first defining and analyzing “natural [gender] agreement” elsewhere.

“Natural gender” is such that a word’s grammatical gender correlates to the sex/gender inherent in the person the word is referencing. For example, “he” is masculine in grammatical gender, correlating to a male. “Stewardess” implies a woman. Etc.

Below we will challenge the above claim that the Holy Spirit’s “natural” gender is “masculine because of the Spirit’s personality” (personhood).

Defining “Natural [Gender] Agreement”

“Natural [gender] agreement” occurs when a word’s gender correlates to the biological sex/gender of the person it directly refers to (“natural gender”) in distinction from the grammatical gender of its antecedent (preceding reference)—the word it refers back to. Stated another way, instead of agreeing in grammatical gender with its previous reference, the word agrees with the biological sex/gender of the person (“natural gender”) referred to.

An analogy from English should clarify:

A1: Though the player grew weary, the athlete was spurred on by the crowd.
B1: Though the player grew weary, she was spurred on by the crowd.

The antecedent (preceding reference) in each sentence is the player. In A1 the athlete is unspecified as to gender, just like its antecedent. For the sake of this example, we’ll call both neuter in grammatical gender.  In A1 there is the usual grammatical gender agreement (the playerthe athlete). In B1 the natural gender of the person (feminine, she) to whom the word refers is used instead of one matching the grammatical gender (neuter) of its antecedent. In Greek, this dissimilarity would be a case of applying natural gender agreement in place of grammatical gender agreement—a grammatical mismatch.

This sort of thing is also called “construction according to sense”, or constructio ad sensum.

From Mark’s Gospel, Robertson finds an example of natural gender agreement over the grammatical:

In Mk. 5:41 αὐτῇ [autē̦, her] follows the natural gender of παιδίον [paidion, child] rather than the grammatical.3

The applicable portion of the verse is “Taking the child (paidion, neuter) by the hand, He said to her (autē̦, feminine)…” Alternatively, Mark could have chosen the neuter form of the pronoun (autō̦4) for grammatical gender agreement between the two words. By choosing “her” (autē̦), he followed “natural gender” instead. Mark went from the general “child” (paidion, neuter) to the more specific “her” (autē̦, feminine)—a grammatical mismatch.

Let’s look more closely at this. In the larger context, Jesus heals Jairus’ daughter. The feminine thygatēr, “daughter”, is used for her in 5:35. Thus, we already knew the child is female rather than male. But the intervening references, up to and including 5:41 (39, 40, 41), all use the more general neuter paidion, “child” as a synonym. Here is the chain of referents:

thygatēr (5:35) > paidion (5:39) > paidion, paidion (5:40) > paidion (5:41) > autē (5:41)
daughter (5:35) > child (5:39) > child, child (5:40) > child (5:41) > her (5:41)

Thus, while 5:41 clearly is an instance of “natural [gender] agreement” over grammatical agreement, the natural gender is determinable by the larger context by a preceding reference.5

An Evil Pneuma Has Masculine “Natural Gender”?

For our purposes here, Mark 9:20 provides a more fitting example. Its context contains “spirit”, pneuma. Robertson opines that this is another example of natural gender usage:

“…surely this is…treating πνεῦμα [pneuma] as masculine (natural gender).”6

But what makes a malevolent spirit inherently masculine in “natural gender”? Is a spirit male?7 Let’s scrutinize.

In the larger context beginning at Mark 9:17, a particular pneuma possesses a man’s son, preventing him from speaking. In 9:18 a neuter pronoun appropriately correlates to pneuma, its antecedent: “…I asked your disciples to cast it (auto) out…”. Correspondingly, in 9:28 the disciples asked Jesus, “Why weren’t we able to cast it (auto) out?”

Yet 9:20 causes a bit of confusion. It contains four different uses of the masculine ‘personal’ pronoun (auton, “him”). Related to this is a grammatical anomaly: the masculine pronoun encoded in the participle “saw” (he). This will take a bit to sort out:

ēnegkan auton pros auton. kai idōn auton to pneuma euthys synesparaxen auton
They-brought him to Him. And [when] he-saw Him, the spirit immediately convulsed him…
They-brought the son to Jesus. And when he-saw Jesus, the spirit promptly convulsed the son…

The proper correspondent for the masculine “he-saw” in this sentence would be “the spirit” (to pneuma). But, of course, pneuma is neuter instead of masculine.8 The late Rodney Decker explains: “As an adverbial participle idōn [he-saw] should agree [in gender] with the subject of the main verb (pneuma), but this is constructio ad sensum.”9 Decker then refers to Ezra Gould, whom I’ll quote in larger context:

[S]ince the action of the verb [convulsed] belongs to the spirit, and is occasioned by the action denoted by the participle [saw], it would be the spirit which is described as having seen Jesus. But [the spirit] does this with the eyes of [the son], and hence the masculine form of the participle.

In all these stories [exorcisms], the man and the evil spirit get mixed up in this way. The outward acts belong to the man, but the informing spirit is sometimes that of the man, and sometimes the evil spirit.10

In other words, though there is a grammatical gender mismatch, Gould thinks this is due to the mixing of the spirit (neuter) and the boy (masculine). Since the spirit (pneuma, neuter) acts through the son (huios, masculine), a masculine-gendered participle represents the son as the spirit’s ocular vehicle here. The possessing spirit sees through the eyes of the possessed son.

Sometimes the person acts apart from the demon. Sometimes the demon acts through the person. From the evidence thus far, one could consider this a case of “natural gender” agreement (constructio ad sensum) correlated to the son (son/spirit), not the spirit.

Mark 1:23-26 provides a good comparison. The translation below is as ‘literal’ (formally equivalent) as possible. Subscripted brackets identify grammatical number (singular[sg] or plural[pl]) and gender (masculine[ms] or neuter[nt]) where necessary for analysis:

1:23 Suddenly, in their synagogue was a man with an unclean spirit! He cried-out, 24 saying[ms sg], “What is it between You and us[pl], Jesus the Nazarene? Have You come to ruin us[pl]? I-know[sg] who You are: The Holy One of God.” 25 But Jesus rebuked him/it[ms/nt sg] [autō̦], saying, “You[sg] be-quiet and you[sg] come-out of-him [autou]!” 26 And the unclean spirit, [it-]violently-convulsing[nt sg] him and [it-]shouting[nt sg] with a loud voice, came-out of-him [autou].

Like 9:20 above, the possessing pneuma acts through its chosen vessel. This is grammatically shown by Mark’s use of the masculine singular “he”, instead of the neuter in 1:23/24. Note that the spirit self-references with the plural “us” once each in the two questions posed. Yet when the unclean spirit reveals that it knows Jesus’ identity, it reverts back to the singular (I-know)!11 In 1:25 Jesus addresses the pneuma either (a) through the man [him, ms], or (b) directly [it, nt], in commanding exorcism. The better of the two would be (b), for it makes the most sense in this context (see next paragraph). In this way, the pronoun refers to the spirit in distinction from its host.12 And finally, in 1:26 the unclean spirit (nt sg) comes out of the man (autou), freeing him.13

Though there are a number of interpretive options, we should reject any notions that the plural indicates more than one spirit possessing the man.14 Jesus specifically exorcised only one demon. In view of the grammatical evidence of 9:20, at minimum we should harmonize the plural (1:24) with the masculine singular “he”, such that we construe the plural “us” to include the possessed man along with the unclean spirit.15 Thus, the “I” in 1:24 comes from the spirit, which Jesus rebukes in 1:25. Surely the possessing spirit is concerned Jesus has come to exorcise him it from his its chosen host.16 And Jesus promptly does.

If we understand the grammatical anomaly of 9:20 through the contextual lens of the grammar in 1:23-26, Gould’s above comments fall right into line.

In the account of “Legion” in Mark 5 we find a similar thing. Once the man with an unclean spirit is introduced (5:2), there seems to be no differentiation between the acts of the man and the acts of the possessing spirit. These verses, again, appear to reflect the spirit’s actions through the man:

5:6 Seeing[ms sg] Jesus from afar, he-ran and bowed down to-him. 7 In a loud voice he-was-crying-out, saying[ms sg], “What is between me and You, Jesus, Son of the Most High God? I implore you by God: Don’t torment me!” 8 For [Jesus]-had-said to-him/it[ms/nt sg], “You-come-out[sg] of the man unclean spirit!” 9 And [Jesus]-had-asked him[ms sg], “What is your name?” He-replied[sg] to-Him[Jesus], “Legion is my[sg] name[sg], for we-are[pl] many.” 10 Then he/it-began-begging[sg] Him further that [Jesus] would not send them[nt pl] out of the region.

11 Nearby, on the hillside, was a large herd of pigs grazing. 12 So they-began-begging[pl] Him, saying[ms pl], “Send[pl] us[pl] into the pigs so that we-may-enter[pl] them!” 13 And [Jesus]-permitted them[nt pl]. So, after coming-out[nt pl], the unclean spirits entered[pl] into the pigs; and, the herd of pigs—about two-thousand—rushed down the steep bank into the lake. And they were drowned in the lake.

Though the actor in 5:6 is the man, in reality it is the possessing spirit acting through the man, as evidenced by its words in 5:7. In 5:8 where Jesus starts exorcising the spirit through the possessed man, the Gospel writer uses a pronoun (autō̦) that could be either masculine or neuter. We might expect neuter in order to grammatically agree with pneuma, as found at the end of this verse.17 This would concur with the usage in 1:25-26. And this seems the best understanding here.

In 5:9 Mark records Jesus having asked his (auton, ms) name—apparently to the spirit through the man—and the unclean spirit replied, “My name is ’Legion’, for we are many.” This plurality of unclean spirits then (5:10) implores Jesus to not send them (auta, nt pl) away.18 At first blush the masculine singular at the beginning of 5:10 appears to contradict the analysis above; however, the narrator is describing the singular possessed man’s actions spoken by the one spirit representing them all. It is paralleled with 5:9 in that the narrator records a singular spirit (through the man) explaining its collective existence in the man (“Legion”).

Next, in 5:12 Mark records things from the plurality of spirit’s perspective (“They began begging”). Once again the Gospel writer prefaces their statement with a masculine participle (“saying”), but this time he uses the plural to signify the plurality of demons speaking through the man.19 Evidence to support this position finds itself in the next verse: “Jesus permits them” (nt pl). Further, we can deduce that when the spirit is self-referencing, the neuter should be understood (“me” and “I” in 5:7; “my” and “we” in 5:9; “us” and “we” in 5:12). This also assists in confirming the analysis above that the sequence “us”, “us”, “I” in 1:24 refers to the pneuma/possessed man in the “us” as compared to the pneuma only in the “I”.

When prefacing direct speech—except before words commanding exorcism—Mark uses the masculine to indicate pneuma/possessed person. By contrast, in narration describing the scene the Gospel writer uses, or implies, the neuter (5:10, 12, 13), to distinguish the spirit(s) from the possessed man.

Therefore, all the above best explains the example in 9:20 above. In narration, acts of the pneuma independent of the possessed person are expressed by the neuter. And the neuter is used when the spirit is referenced by another in distinction from the possessed person (9:18, 28). Therefore, it could well be argued that grammatical gender and “natural gender” are the same for pneumaneuter. Or, perhaps better, that a pneuma does not have “natural gender” at all. To add strength to this position, we’ll look at one final account of demon possession.

The possessed slave-girl in Acts 16:16-18 provides a great comparison and contrast.20 Luke records the girl as speaking what are obviously words coming from the possessing spirit (16:17).21 The gender of both the pronoun (hautē, “This one” [slave-girl]) and the participle preceding the speech (legousa, “[she]-was-saying”) is feminine, but the words certainly originate from the pneuma. In other words, the feminine grammatical gender is apparently due to the biological sex/gender of the spirit’s mouthpiece—its verbalizing vehicle.

Thus, harmonizing these accounts with respect to gender—and applying a bit of Occam’s razor—one can make a strong argument that none of these accounts of spirits/demons contain examples of “natural gender” as pertaining to pneuma. That is, pneuma remains neuter. When a masculine or feminine referent is seemingly used for pneuma this merely indicates the biological sex of the possessed person. These examples also cast doubt on any notions of “natural gender” for spirit beings generally. I think we must be very careful not to impose human gender ideas upon spirit beings.

The Holy Spirit Has Masculine “Natural Gender”?

Finally, we shall directly engage Robertson’s argument that the Holy Spirit has implied masculine “natural gender”. He asserts, “Two passages in John call for remark, inasmuch as they bear on the personality of the Holy Spirit.”22 The first part refers to 14:26, the second 16:13. In the following we shall see that English grammar notions inform part of his argument on the Greek, which is then contended to indicate the Spirit’s personhood (“personality”).

This is the first part of the grammarian’s argument (Greek replaced with English transliteration):

In 14:26…ho de paraklētos, to pneuma to hagion, ho pempsei ho patēr en tō̧ onomati mou, ekeinos hymas didaxei, the relative [pronoun] ho follows the grammatical gender of pneuma. Ekeinos (“That One”), however, skips over pneuma and reverts to the gender of paraklētos.23

Essentially, he is correct, which I will unpack below. First, here’s biblical context for his argument:

14:26 But the paraklētos[ms]—the Holy Spirit[nt], Which[nt] the Father will send in My name—That One[ms] will teach you all things, and remind you of everything I told you.

Robertson is right: “That One” skips over “the Holy Spirit” to agree in gender with paraklētos (advocate, counselor, helper, comforter). This is precisely why I prefer to separate the middle clause by em dashes (—). The neuter relative pronoun “Which” (hos) correlates to “Spirit” (pneuma), while the masculine demonstrative pronoun (ekeinos) “That One” refers to paraklētos. This is grammatical agreement. There is no reason to press this further. However, Robertson uses this as background for the second part of his argument:

In 16:13 a more striking example occurs, hotan de elthȩ̄ ekeinos, to pneuma tēs alētheias. Here one has to go back six lines to ekeinos again and seven to paraklētos. It is more evident therefore in this passage that John is insisting on the personality [personhood] of the Holy Spirit, when the grammatical gender so easily called for ekeino[nt] [ED: nt instead of ms].24

With respect to the gargantuan effort evident in Robertson’s mammoth grammar, his conclusion “when the grammatical gender so easily called for ekeino [nt]” is a non sequitur. The chain of referents follows:

paraklētos (16:7) > ekeinos (16:8) > ekeinos (16:13)
paraklētos (16:7) > That One (16:8) > That One (16:13)

After providing a brief synopsis of things to come (16:1-6), Jesus again mentions the paraklētos in this discourse (16:7). “That One” in 16:8 directly refers to paraklētos. The verses following this pronoun (16:9, 10, 11) detail functions of paraklētos; so, the same subject is assumed. 16:12 provides a transition to the next thought. There are neither intervening occurrences of pneuma nor intervening neuter pronouns. Thus, there is no basis to assume a neuter would have been “so easily called for” in place of “That One” in 16:13. In fact, the grammar is against it. Consequently, “That One” in 16:13 directly refers to “That One” in 16:8, which in turn directly refers to paraklētos. Therefore, this is not an implied instance of “natural gender” usage, which would somehow go towards supporting “the personality [personhood] of the Holy Spirit”.

Note that Thomas extends his argument a bit further (“Jn 14:26; 15:26; 16:13—14”). We’ll engage the last reference first, since it is a direct extension of Robertson’s with respect to 16:13. Here’s the text in English:

16:13 But when That One comes—the Spirit of truthHe/It-will-guide you into all truth, for He/It will not speak on His/Its own[ms/nt], but He/It-will-speak only what He/Ithears. And He/It-will disclose to you things yet to come. 14 That One[ms] will bring glory to Me[ms/nt], because He/Itwill receive from Me and disclose it to you.

Since Thomas does not develop his argument—in all fairness, his commentary is part of a larger volume, so was necessarily limited—I can only speculate. Thus, I don’t think it very profitable to ‘read his mind’, so to speak. However, to reduce this down to its simplest, there is ambiguity as to whether the verbiage after “the Spirit of truth” pertains to “the Spirit of truth” or, alternatively, to “That One” (paraklētos). If the former is assumed, then the second em dash should be placed at the end of 16:13. But this doesn’t seem to do justice to the context. In any case, with the presence of “That One” (ms) at the beginning of 16:14, it is clear this pronoun is intended to agree with “That One” in 16:13.

But surely if this were integral to Robinson’s argument above, the grammarian would have included it.

Thomas’ final reference is John 15:26. But this is much like 14:26 in which there is a split between paraklētos and “That One”. Thus, Thomas may include it as a parallel reference with Robertson’s 14:26. But I fail to perceive how this helps the cause:

5:26 “When the paraklētos[ms] comes, Whom[ms] I will send to you from the Father—the Spirit of truth[nt], the One Which[nt] comes forth from the Father—That One[ms] will testify about Me.”

Daniel B. Wallace, in his grammar, engages this kind of argument.25 After refuting it, he concludes (Greek transliterated):

Although one might argue that the Spirit’s personality [personhood] is in view in these passages, the view must be based on the nature of a paraklētos and the things said about the Comforter, not on any supposed grammatical subtleties. Indeed, it is difficult to find any text in which pneuma is grammatically referred to with the masculine gender.26

In a related footnote, Wallace makes a brief comment about 2 Thessalonians 2:6 and 2:7, noting that “Holy Spirit” is absent from the surrounding context.27 Nevertheless, he does think the Spirit is a possible referent for these two verses, though any argument for this cannot rely on the erroneous claim that masculine is the “natural gender” of pneuma.28

Concluding Thoughts

Pneuma is neuter, whether in reference to the Holy Spirit or an unclean spirit.

Yet, isn’t each individual pneuma in the Mark and Acts accounts above in actual fact a sentient, conscious being? Yes, of course. Though each demon (pneuma) uses its chosen vessel as its actor, each pneuma has its own thoughts and will in distinction from its possessed victim. Each is cast out against its will. And doesn’t such sentience necessarily indicate personhood? And shouldn’t this be somewhat analogous to the Holy Spirit? That is, if an unclean spirit is a person in and of itself, how much more should we consider the Holy Spirit to be a ‘Person’ in and of Itself/Himself, regardless of pronoun usage?

We might say “Sally discerned an evil spirt at that meeting” but we understand that it was the Holy Spirit working through her. The difference, of course, is that a Holy Spirit indwelt Christian is not possessed. While an unclean spirit imposes its own will upon its victim, the Holy Spirit allows the indwelt believer a choice. The believer retains complete control yet can allow the Spirit to work through by submitting to His/Its leading. A Holy Spirit indwelt person can choose either to be led by the flesh or led by the Spirit (Galatians 5:13-26).

Too many times it seems theological motives override grammar and context in a misguided effort to bolster a particular position. Sometimes it is needless, for the doctrine in question is secured by other means elsewhere in Scripture. I’m inclined to believe these are motivated by good intentions. I might call these ‘over-interpretations’ and ‘over-apologetics’.

There are other ways to argue for the Holy Spirit as “the restrainer” in 2 Thessalonians 2. From my own research thus far, however, I don’t find them persuasive. If the Holy Spirit is deemed not to be “the restrainer”, how might that impact the pre-tribulation “Rapture” doctrine? And how might that impact your day to day life?


1 Trivia: the horn blast sequence is the same each time, which is intended to indicate “X” in Morse code: dash-dot-dot-dash. (Technically, the second “dash” is too long—should be the same length as the first—and the space between the first “dash” and the “dots” is a bit too long.)
2 Robert L. Thomas, 2 Thessalonians, The Expositor’s Bible Commentary, Vol. 12, Ephesians ~ Philemon; Rev. Ed., D. Garland & T. Longman, Gen. Eds. (Grand Rapids, MI: Zondervan, 2006), pp 470-71; underscore added. (A typographical error in the page number references to Robertson’s Grammar [“208-9”] was corrected.) The bracketed portion was moved from the second set of parentheses to the first, given that it seems to be more accurately apply there (“masculine because of the Spirit’s personality”), which becomes evident below when Robertson is critiqued on this.
3 A. T. Robertson, A Grammar of the Greek New Testament in the Light of Historical Research, 4th ed. (Nashville, TN: Broadman Press, 1934), p 684.
4 But, then again, since the neuter is the same as the masculine in the dative (and genitive), this could possibly have caused confusion!
5 The original reference to the girl comes in 5:23, in which she is introduced by thygatrion (little daughter)—the diminutive form of thygatēr—and this term is neuter though clearly referencing a little girl by its definition. This illustrates that even when the very definition of a term indicates the sex/gender of the person described by the term this does not necessarily mean it will also correlate to the person’s “natural gender”.
6 Robertson, Grammar, p 436.
7 Bear in mind that Robertson’s work was written in the early 1900s, well before any modern ideas of gender.
8 On the surface, this is a grammatical error. A rough equivalent in English would be, “When the boy saw Jesus, the woman…” in which ‘the woman’ is the same person as ‘the boy’ at the beginning. But I think Mark was quite purposeful here. In light of his previous accounts (1:23-26; 5:2-13)—which we’ll investigate below—the Gospel writer intended to more sharply show the distinction between the possessing spirt and its host.
9 Rodney J. Decker, Mark 9—16, Baylor Handbook on the Greek New Testament (Waco, TX: Baylor UP, 2014), p 17 (Greek transliterated). I very much respect the late Decker, recalling his words from the Introduction in the BHGNT here explaining his selection of commentaries sourced for his two-part volume: “My choice to engage these writers beginning with the old ICC volume by Gould (1896)…is an attempt to give writers their due. Sometimes more recent commentators are simply a collection of snippets from older works, with or without credit” (p xxiv).
10 Ezra P. Gould, The Gospel According to St. Mark, A Critical and Exegetical Commentary; ed. Samuel Rolles Driver, Alfred Plummer, and Charles A. Briggs; Accordance electronic ed. (Edinburgh: T. & T. Clark, 1896), paragraph 5185 (at 9:20). Craig A. Evans, in his WBC (Mark 8:27—16:20, Word Biblical Commentary [Nashville, TN: Thomas Nelson, 2001]), disappointingly, at best merely indirectly addresses the grammatical issue, if at all: “The spirit is said to have seen Jesus, and it is the spirit that is said to have convulsed the boy. The symptoms may have been those usually associated with epilepsy, but the Markan evangelist makes it clear that it was an evil spirit, something distinct from the boy himself, that caused the illness” (p 52, emphasis added). But even this is better than the others consulted which didn’t mention the grammatical issue in any manner.
11 Gender is not specifically expressed here, but neuter is implied from its use in both participles in 1:26.
12 Interestingly, in my software the NA28 is tagged neuter, while the GNT is tagged masculine. There is no textual variant here.
13 Though autou is ms/nt in both 1:25 and 1:26, these obviously refer to the man as distinct from the unclean spirit.
14 Such a faulty notion can come from the plural “the unclean spirits” (to pneuma to akathartos) in 1:28, but this is unnecessary. An exclamation in the plural for one singular surprising action is not uncommon in English: Upon discovering your seemingly non-mechanically-inclined neighbor had replaced the brake pads on his car you respond, “I didn’t know you worked on cars!”
15 Contra, e.g., Robert H. Stein (Mark, Baker Exegetical Commentary on the Greek New Testament {BECNT} [Grand Rapids, MI: Baker Academic, 2008]), who specifically asserts, “The ‘us’ refers not to the man and the unclean spirit, but to unclean spirits as a group” (p 87). Couldn’t it be both/and? See next note.
16 This comports with the local context here. Thus, the verb “destroy” (apollumi)—rendered “ruin” here—in 1:24 is likely intended polysemy. On one level the possessing spirit is concerned Jesus will separate it from its host. This is reflected in the second entry in Frederick W. Danker’s The Concise Greek-English Lexicon of the Greek New Testament (Chicago, IL: Chicago UP, 2009): “’experience disconnection or separation’—a. lose with focus on what one has or possesses” (p 47). Though Danker specifically places Mk 1:24 in his first entry (“’cause severe damage’—a. by making ineffective or incapable of functioning destroy”, p 47), I think both apply. More specifically, the latter (destroy) applies both singly to the possessing spirit here and collectively for all demons in the new eschatological age Jesus inaugurated. See Robert A. Guelich, Mark 1—8:26, Word Biblical Commentary (Dallas, TX: Word Books, 1989), pp 58-60.
17 Gould, St. Mark, states: “Only the man had been mentioned before, which would lead us to refer this [ambiguous ms/nt pronoun] to him. But the command is evidently addressed to the demon. This confusion is due to the identification of the two” (para 4631 [at 5:8]; emphasis added).
18 The Textus Receptus has the masculine plural pronoun rather than the neuter. Gould thinks this is original (para 4640 [at 5:10]). In view of overall context (to include 9:20), I’m inclined to disagree with Gould, though the manuscript evidence is far from definitive—from what little I know, admittedly. Yet it’s curious that neither Metzger nor Comfort (New Testament Text and Translation Commentary) make note of this variant, for there seems legitimate cause to question the proper text. The NA28 (Holger Strutwolf, ed., Novum Testamentum Graece, 28th, Accordance electronic ed. [Stuttgart: Deutsche Bibelgesellschaft, 2012], p 119) lists the following in the apparatus:

αυτους αποστειλη D ƒ13 28. 565. 700. 1424. (ƒ1 2542) 𝔐 ¦ αποστειλη αυτους A 579. 1241. ℓ 2211 it ¦ αυτον αποστειλη ℵ L (⸉ K W 892) lat syp bo ¦ txt B C Δ (⸉ Θ).

It may not matter much in translation, but it might be worth discussion by specialists.
19 The opinion of Gould, Mark, is nuanced somewhat differently, “Here the subject changes from the man speaking for the demons to the demons speaking through the man” (para 4646).
20 See I. Howard Marshall, Acts, Tyndale New Testament Commentaries (Downers Grove, IL: Intervarsity Press, 2008), pp 285—87.
21 F. F. Bruce (The Acts of the Apostles: Greek Text with Introduction and Commentary; 3rd rev. ed. [Grand Rapids, MI: Eerdmans, 1990]) sources Plutarch’s De defectu oraculorum (9.414E) which “calls such soothsayers…ventriloquists who uttered words not only apparently, but really, beyond their own control” (p 360). Cf. Darrell L. Bock, Acts, Baker Exegetical Commentary on the Greek New Testament [BECNT] (Grand Rapids, MI: Baker Academic, 2007), pp 535 note 2, 535—37.
22 Robertson, Grammar, pp 708-709. Here is the complete quote in its context, with transliterations in parentheses after the Greek: “Two passages in John call for remark, inasmuch as they bear on the personality of the Holy Spirit. In 14:26, ὁ δὲ παράκλητος, τὸ πνεῦμα τὸ ἅγιον ὃ πέμψει ὁ πατὴρ ἐν τῷ ὀνόματί μου, ἐκεῖνος ὑμᾶς διδάξει (ho de paraklētos, to pneuma to hagion, ho pempsei ho patēr en tō̧ onomati mou, ekeinos hymas didaxei), the relative ὅ (ho) follows the grammatical gender of πνεῦμα (pneuma). Ἐκεῖνος (ekeinos), however, skips over πνεῦμα (pneuma) and reverts to the gender of παράκλητος (paraklētos). In 16:13 a more striking example occurs, ὅταν δὲ ἔλθῃἐκεῖνος, τὸ πνεῦμα τῆς ἀληθείας (hotan de elthȩ̄ ekeinos, to pneuma tēs alētheias). Here one has to go back six lines to ἐκεῖνος (ekeinos) again and seven to παράκλητος (paraklētos). It is more evident therefore in this passage that John is insisting on the personality of the Holy Spirit, when the grammatical gender so easily called for ἐκεῖνο (ekeino) [ED: neuter (instead of masculine)].”
23 Robertson, Grammar, pp 708-709.
24 Robertson, Grammar, p 709.
25 Daniel B. Wallace, Greek Grammar Beyond the Basics: An Exegetical Syntax of the New Testament (Grand Rapids, MI: Zondervan, 1996), pp 331, 332,
26 Wallace, Grammar, p 332; cf. p 338.
27 Wallace, Grammar, p 332, ftnt 44.
28 Wallace, Grammar, p 332. Wallace does not, however, advance any sort of argument.

137 Responses to The Holy Spirit as “Restrainer” in 2 Thessalonians 2?

  1. Rob Morrow says:

    The problem that has existed since the late 1800’s when Ephesians 5:22-25 was translated, superimposed- whatever, where Paul said “As the husband is head of the wife, like Christ is the head of the church” that people took as canon that the church is the Bride of Christ, thereby pro-noun ‘she’. This error of understanding has caused more trouble that any other translation of scripture- especially the pre-tribulation rapture of the church. The church is the BODY of Christ- not the Bride. Would we call Christ she? No – Christ is a He – so is his Body. So the church is the restrainer that must be removed before the ‘Son of Perdition’ can be revealed or come to power. One of the greatest thing the church has lost in the last generation is Dispensationalism. Daniel 9:24 says 70 weeks [this is weeks of years or 490 years] are determined upon thy people-Israel- then in Daniel 9:27 we see the Antichrist- “He shall confirm the covenant [with Israel] for 1 week [week of years or 7 years]. When Christ was crucified, died and resurrected was 483 years, which leaves 7 years until the end of the Church Age, or the Age of Grace. When the Church is removed “2Th 2:7  For the mystery of iniquity doth already work: only he [the church] who now letteth [withholds] will let [hold back], until he [the Church] be taken out of the way. There is only one scripture that identifies the Bride of Christ and that is “Rev 21:9  And there came unto me one of the seven angels which had the seven vials full of the seven last plagues, and talked with me, saying, Come hither, I will shew thee the bride, the Lamb’s wife. 
    Rev 21:10  And he carried me away in the spirit to a great and high mountain, and shewed me that great city, the holy Jerusalem, descending out of heaven from God”
    The Holy Spirit cannot be the Restrainer because there will be a multitude [that no man could number] of humans saved during the tribulation. No one can be saved without the Holy Spirit. There is also a dire warning in 2 Thess. All these people jumping from church to church and seeking one false prophet after another and never get saved –
    2Th 2:10  And with all deceivableness of unrighteousness in them that perish; because they received not the love of the truth, that they might be saved. 
    2Th 2:11  And for this cause God shall send them strong delusion, that they should believe a lie: 
    2Th 2:12  That they all might be damned who believed not the truth, but had pleasure in unrighteousness. 


  2. Wow, Craig! I appreciate the example you gave with “The Car.” I will confess, I need to read this a few more times to process all that you are saying! I need to learn more Greek! For me personally, the Holy Spirit is a Person not an “it” or a “force” as you have repeatedly noted; however, I have not done any work to substantiate, qualify, corroborate the Personhood of the Holy Spirit. Thank you for opening my eyes to this!!

    Liked by 1 person

  3. Craig says:


    Thanks for your comment. Respectfully, there are some problems in substituting “Church” in 2:6 and 2:7. The word for church is feminine in gender, while “the restrainer” in 2:6 is neuter and 2:7 is masculine.


  4. Craig says:

    Thanks, Mandy! This took me quite a while to put together, so I fully understand a few reads to digest what I’m saying here.

    Liked by 1 person

  5. Craig says:


    I need to add: the word for “body” is sōma, which is neuter. Theoretically, this could work in 2:6, but not 2:7.

    Liked by 1 person

  6. Craig says:


    I meant to ask you earlier: Do you have a Bible software, such as Logos or Accordance, that includes the Greek?

    Liked by 1 person

  7. Hey, Craig! Yes, I have Logos. I don’t know what I would do without it. I have a friend who uses Accordance. I am completely unfamiliar with that software. As for Logos, if there’s anything I can help you with, feel free to message me on my contact page and I can email you stuff!!

    Liked by 1 person

  8. Craig says:

    Hey thanks for the offer! From what I understand Accordance is fairly equivalent, though.

    See my footnote 12. I thought that was interesting. There is certainly a choice to be made between ms and nt, but I think nt makes far more sense here. Yet I have an old interlinear using NA26 by Robert K. Brown & Philip Comfort in which they deem it ms.

    Liked by 1 person

  9. SLIMJIM says:

    Wow you’ve been busy while your blog has been silent. Will read this after my Bible study tonight for our parenting series

    Liked by 1 person

  10. Craig says:

    Thanks. Yes, this took quite a while to put together. Like most projects, it starts with a basic idea and tends to go in other directions as I write/research.

    What is so interesting is that I spend a fair amount of time on YouTube, sometimes just passing time on stuff that’s less ‘heavy’. I’m not sure how, but I came across snippets of The Car, which provided a perfect means for illustration. These sorts of ‘coincidences’ are fascinating to me.

    Liked by 1 person

  11. I have the NA28 and nt seems like the best fit. I saw your footnote earlier and was going to comment that I thought the lack of textual variant was fascinating. I would have thought there would be one in this case. Your work in Greek, defending the Holy Spirit is absolutely amazing! I pray you know that!

    Totally unrelated. My husband is retired Army, how are you doing/managing/coping with all the events that have been transpiring , especially this week and even within the last 24 hours? I am praying for you.

    Liked by 1 person

  12. Craig says:

    Thank you! The other articles in this vein were a sort of prelude to this one. I’m pretty sure this one is a bit much for my general readership, though.

    I’m wanting to focus on eschatology. Having researched the socio-political climate for some time–and having read some occult material–I do believe we are close to Jesus’ return. No predictions as to time, of course. But we are to be able to discern the season. With this in mind, my strong opinion is that the pre-trib “Rapture” is not correct. I think when Jesus returns He also gathers His saints (I used to be mid-trib). This is why I’m challenging 2 Thessalonians 2 here.

    I don’t overly-concern myself with these things. They’re out of my control. But, I’m using what I glean to tell friends how the time is–in my opinion–nigh. I want everyone to be prepared if they don’t get the get-out-of-tribulation-free parachute.

    Your prayers are appreciated!

    Liked by 1 person

  13. SLIMJIM says:

    (thumbs Up) Two more hours from now…


  14. Craig, I appreciate YOU! I am becoming ever more in the Prewrath or mid-trib camp. I use to be pre-trib. I personally do not think we will go through the whole Tribulation, but I also don’t agree that we will be raptured before the tribulation begins. I haven’t gotten to the post-trib yet. In all that, I agree Jesus’s return is getting closer. I am amazed by the lack of discussion in the debate on US foreign policy. The Middle East is the biggest area of focus for me right now. Whether UAE, Israel, Bahrain to Armenia and Azerbaijan and the responses of House of Saud, Turkey, France. I feel bad for the people who think that the world will return to what it was in Feb 2020, that’s just not reality. The life we once knew, we will know no more. May the Lord change and transform us in His image and for His glory. You can delete this post if you want, I process things out loud sorry if I overstepped my bounds!


  15. Craig says:

    Your post/opinions are just fine! No problem.

    I don’t disagree with anything you said, except for the mid-trib view. But on eschatology no one can be sure, and there’s no trouble in disagreements.

    You wrote: May the Lord change and transform us in His image and for His glory. This is precisely why I want to warn folks.

    I just saw this Tucker Carlson video. He’s right in that it’s a spiritual thing:

    Liked by 1 person

  16. Are you amillennial then? That’s not judgmental or anything like that! I can’t reconcile post-trib with a millennial reign. I will confess, I do feel like there is some form of future for political Israel with Jesus literally ruling on earth. God has really been working with me on my view of the eschaton. I will def check out Tucker’s video, thanks!!


  17. Craig says:

    I lean pre-millennial, but I don’t cast amillennialism aside. Relatedly, see this short blog post:

    Looking Past the Future

    Liked by 1 person

  18. Jim says:

    Can I ask Craig, when you say ‘personality of the Holy Spirit’ are you meaning a divine entity, rather than pneuma being a generic (albeit divinely sourced) force or power?

    Or, are you using ‘personality’ in the sense that if the pneuma of God/truth/Jesus is indeed an entity by default from contextual masculine Greek pronouns, then it must exist separately from the Father and Jesus?

    I’m not sure I’m clear on what distinction you hold. You could make an argument for personality despite the neuter pneuma because, as you state above, if the masculine pronoun used for pneuma refers to the provider or host of that pneuma, for which in John 16 paraclete is the referent, then all references to a Holy Pneuma can be male in that context because the Father and Jesus are masculine. Jesus was their comforter, and his spirit would be their future comforter and also our advocate too. Therefore masculine pneuma pronoun in that context.

    I think post-Nicene Christendom has erroneously supplanted the invisible ‘spirit’ Jesus Christ with an unecessary third entity not known in second temple Judaism, nor amongst the apostles or early church fathers. I think the Holy Spirit does indeed have personality. That person is Jesus. Jesus spoke in the third person in John 17:1-3, and the same style of language is being used by him with respect to the Paraclete describing his invisible presence in the disciples hearts after resurrection.

    So, to the subject line in this post, who is the restrainer in your view?


  19. Craig says:


    Short answers for now (I was getting ready to sleep and am a bit tired [but feel free to respond]). I’m not so much trying to refute the force/power (“it”) idea as much as illustrating that a pronoun has no bearing on whether or not we can consider the Holy Spirit a ‘Person’. I’m holding to the Trinitarian ideal.

    As to your second paragraph, the masculine gender itself means nothing. It’s context that defines personhood. The word for “world” is the grammatically masculine kosmos, but this does not mean the world is a “he”, a male. Unless specifically denoting biological sex by its very definition, the grammatical gender of a noun/pronoun means nothing as it pertains to personhood. For comparison, the neuter padion denotes a person (boy or girl) by its very definition, while the neuter rhēma (word/saying) does not indicate personhood in and of itself by its very definition. Yet logos (word) is personal ONLY when it refers to the preincarnate Jesus, but not so in other contexts.

    I know we’re not going to agree as regards the Trinity, but do you see where I’m coming from? Admittedly, there is very much to digest in this article. It may be beneficial to focus first on the argument related to unclean spirits.

    Part of my point for writing this (there were a number) was to refute the notion of ‘personhood via masculine pronouns’ (or paraclete). Like Wallace states:

    Although one might argue that the Spirit’s personality [personhood] is in view in these passages, the view must be based on the nature of a paraklētos and the things said about the Comforter, not on any supposed grammatical subtleties.

    As for “the restrainer”, I will hold what I think until I post an article on this subject. The grammar is very tricky here–which is why there’s been so much debate. In the mean time I intend to post articles that deal with parts of 2 Thess 2 as background for it.


  20. Craig says:

    This might be helpful, Jim. I’m not arguing FOR the Trinity in this article, I’m presupposing the doctrine. Thus, I’m just pointing out that we needn’t make some tortured argument that because the masculine-gendered word paraclete is used for the Holy Spirit that this somehow goes toward affirming personhood. This is imposing English ideas (the neuter “it” doesn’t indicate a person, while the masculine “he” always does) upon the Greek. On the contrary, it’s the things said about the function of the paraclete that determine personhood–and other contexts that use pneuma imply personhood.


  21. Jim says:

    Ok, thanks, I think I understand better Craig, but my mind is still trying to grapple with grammatical vs biological genders, their particular referents in certain passages and implications for qualifying as an entity. I’m trying hard and you’re way ahead of me on this road!

    This post is a bit longer but I don’t want you waking up to 10 pages of A4 to wade through. I have a couple of shorter points after this though.

    I’m trying to figure out too the connection, especially in your example from Mark’s gospel and encounters with unclean spirits, the associated pronoun gender and who is being referred to along the way – the person possessed, the spirit etc.

    Overall, I agree with your premise that we can’t dismiss or attribute personality of God-given pneuma simply because it is neuter in Greek, or translated ‘he’, any more than the kosmos is a masculine thing. Clearly, if something or someone has the specific organs of a male or female (and I know I’m drifting into socially contested waters here, but hey let’s stick with the DNA), then it can acquire the appropriate grammatical masculine or feminine gender.

    I also agree that there is good contextual cause to attribute (male) personhood to the pneuma that is sent by the Father and Jesus to dwell in the heart or mind of a believer. Male is bracketed since the Hebrew equivalent for pneuma, ruach, is feminine. Since, unlike you, I am not presupposing an even nascent or proto-trinitarian approach by Jesus and the NT writers, my purpose in replying is to see to see whether one can also align your argument with the scriptures that:

    Jesus and the Father are one and ‘in’ each other
    Jesus and the Father will make their home in a believer
    Spirit and wind are synonyms
    Jesus was the disciples’ visible comforter
    Just as the Father provided the physical Jesus, so will he provide an invisible one
    The Holy Spirit is a person, identified by Jesus as himself (John 14:18, plus all the other lines above in John’s gospel)

    I do get quite passionate, I will say, at any structure, doctrine or creed that robs Jesus of who he is and what he has done and is doing. That includes the kenotic error, many conventional church practices, and I’m thinking more and more, a third person of a godhead. In that light please forgive my persistence, doggedness and perhaps annoying focus on certain elements of orthodox Christianity.


  22. Jim says:

    Regarding the passages about unclean or evil spirits, am I right in condensing your point down to: ‘the word pneuma can be used to indicate a being in the right context rather than simply the manifestation of a force, power, an illness or mood’?

    I might be on the wrong tack, so correct me. Hebrews 1:14 states that angels are ministering spirits. As an aside, in Mark 12 Jesus says that the resurrected are like the angels in heaven, not needing to marry. If the design of God for man was that two sexes left parents to be conjoined in marrriage, but that angels have not been created to do so, then there is a potential inference that angels are genderless, at least according to human terms.

    There are plenty of recorded instances of angelic beings interacting with mankind, from across the old and new testaments. That said though, I don’t think we can attribute a being or entity to every use of pneuma or ruach. There are clearly times when these are describing moods, emotions, thoughts and ideas, power, things done in the visible realm originating in the unseen one.

    I susbscribe to a divine council presided over by YHWH the Father as per Ps 82:1, Dan 7:9-10 and Rev 4. Therefore, there are created beings, invisible to our senses, that consequently get termed pneuma and ruach, but those words can also be used for breath, wind, force, power, inner nature. The context tells you whether it is an entity or not.


  23. Jim says:

    Ok lastly, I’d like to get a thought on 2 Thess 2 down for your consideration in the light of research no doubt you are still in the middle of writing. What I’ll do is write the NIV passage and where there is a ‘he’ or ‘it’ I’ll put my suggestion as to the object or referent. It might not accord to anything you’re heading towards.

    Regarding the trib, if by ‘wrath’ people think of it as the destruction of the man of sin and his armies, then I reckon believers will be witnesses to that as part of the parousia, and so I could be pre-wrath, but generally I am post-trib since that is chronologically when I see the return of Christ and consequently our ‘being gathered to him’.

    So, bear in mind that Paul is interplaying two parousias or comings, and two revelations…

    Concerning the coming of our Lord Jesus Christ and our being gathered to him, we ask you, brothers and sisters, 2 not to become easily unsettled or alarmed by the teaching allegedly from us—whether by a prophecy or by word of mouth or by letter—asserting that the day of the Lord has already come. 3 Don’t let anyone deceive you in any way, for that day will not come until the rebellion occurs and the man of lawlessness is revealed, the man doomed to destruction. 4 He will oppose and will exalt himself over everything that is called God or is worshiped, so that he sets himself up in God’s temple, proclaiming himself to be God.

    5 Don’t you remember that when I was with you I used to tell you these things? 6 And now you know what is holding him {JESUS} back, so that he {JESUS} may be revealed at the proper time. 7 For the secret power of lawlessness is already at work; but the one {MAN OF SIN} who now holds it {THE PAROUSIA} back will continue to do so till he {MAN OF SIN} is taken out of the way. 8 And then the lawless one will be revealed, whom the Lord Jesus will overthrow with the breath of his mouth and destroy by the splendor of his coming. 9 The coming of the lawless one will be in accordance with how Satan works. He will use all sorts of displays of power through signs and wonders that serve the lie, 10 and all the ways that wickedness deceives those who are perishing. They perish because they refused to love the truth and so be saved. 11 For this reason God sends them a powerful delusion so that they will believe the lie 12 and so that all will be condemned who have not believed the truth but have delighted in wickedness.

    To my very new reading of this passage, it makes way more sense than inferring a pre-trib rapture, the church, the Holy Spirit, or Michael the archangel, as some say. In sum, Paul is saying, sin is already at work in the world v7, this and the one behind it constrain the return of Jesus in some way until it reaches a culmination of deluded rebellion v3, 11, then Jesus will unveil the man of sin as part of his parousia before destroying him and his followers v3, 8, 12.

    Apologies in advance if this is a distraction in your blog process. Feel free to delete if so Craig.


  24. Craig says:

    Excellent in pointing out ruach is feminine! That by itself should illustrate that grammatical gender has no bearing on the biological sex of the referent many times. And see footnote 5:

    The original reference to the girl comes in 5:23, in which she is introduced by thygatrion (little daughter)—the diminutive form of [the grammatically-gendered feminine] thygatēr—and this term [thygatrion] is neuter though clearly referencing a little girl by its definition. This illustrates that even when the very definition of a term indicates the sex/gender of the person described by the term this does not necessarily mean it will also correlate to the person’s “natural gender”.

    One of the problems with Greek pedagogy (in English) is that English notions of grammar were imposed right in the English nomenclature used for it! This is true in verbs, as well. Here in this post, for example, in Greek ‘personal’ pronouns are analogous to the English personal pronouns he, she, and it in terms of function. HOWEVER, in English these also necessarily encode biological gender (he and she always encode biological gender; it never does), while Greek–and other languages–do not necessarily. THIS is where much confusion comes in. On the other side, an example is logos in which the ‘personal’ pronoun is most often appropriate as “it” in translation, except “Him” when referencing the preincarnate Jesus. So, in translating, one must determine the entity/thing the pronoun is referencing in order to determine the appropriate rendering in English translation.

    As for Mark’s usage re unclean spirits (demons for short), in brief: Because Mark is fond of using ‘personal’ pronouns, a number of which are spelled the same whether ms or nt, there is ambiguity regarding which is to be applied. Is the intended referent the demon or the possessed person/demon. I think if we parse this out carefully, tracing the intended referent, and applying nt ONLY when specifically speaks of a demon in distinction from possessed person, and ms ONLY when the referent is demon/possessed person, then everything neatly falls into line. Most often when the entity speaks, it is the demon THROUGH the possessed person, thus the ms is applied. If we carefully retain these distinctions then there’s no need to assume “natural gender” for pneuma at all. This sort of thing is apparently an instance of imposing English grammar upon the Greek (since the demon is clearly a person, then ‘he’ must have masculine natural gender).

    Since I fully understand this can be hard to understand initially, let me try this. View this ‘cheat sheet’, click on the image that allows you to magnify, and find “Definite Article” (it’s on the left side under the alphabet:

    Compare the masc column to the neut column and you’ll see what I mean. The same applies to ‘personal’ pronouns.

    As for your question regarding the Spirit as Jesus, in my view, your schema almost works. But when you attempt to harmonize this schema with Father, Spirit, and Son in the baptism scene, you reduce the Spirit to a force of God. Also keep in mind John 1:35.

    I presume that, like me, you think as you write (and we may have discussed this before). If so, I understand why you do this, for that’s how I work.


  25. Craig says:

    You wrote: Regarding the passages about unclean or evil spirits, am I right in condensing your point down to: ‘the word pneuma can be used to indicate a being in the right context rather than simply the manifestation of a force, power, an illness or mood’?

    I don’t know if I’d parse it like that. Maybe ‘the word pneuma can be used to indicate a being in the right context, but in others it can mean wind, spirit in a general sense, apparition, and perhaps others–all depending on nuance’ I’m not fond of the word ‘force’ as a synonym, since it can have heretical implications.

    Otherwise, I think you are correct that a pneuma being is genderless.

    Of course, you know I’m not onboard with the divine council idea–at least not fully as you articulate it.


  26. Craig says:


    I’ll let your post stand, but I don’t really wish to comment specifically on your interpretation of 2 Thess 2. There are just two many grammatical issues attending this.

    I’m glad you’re rethinking the passage. By eliminating some options one can more clearly see the remaining. But, again, the grammatical issues are very complex here, which then interferes with interpretation. Harmonizing the complex grammar with the larger context is the key. This is the reason I plan to do one piece at a time.

    As regards the pre-trib “Rapture” view, this comes from an interpretation of 2:1-2. From this presuppositional interpretation, the rest is hammered into it.

    My next article will be very brief–though I will take a bit of time to post it. I want to let this one set for a bit, in order that those willing to take the effort can apprehend what I mean here.


  27. Jim says:

    Thanks for the replies Craig. I wrote more than I intended and I appreciate it’s a lot to take in and then make some sense of before responding. I do try and frame ideas as I write and study, so they’re not always the distillation of hours of research elsewhere first, but can be an expression of evolving thought.

    I did put down my response on the baptism with respect to Father, Son and spirit recently. To summarise, the schema I’m suggesting isn’t derailed by this event, as long as we see it as in Messianic terms. Jesus was being visibly and audibly commissioned as a king, priest and prophet directly by the Father, and rather than anointed by the sacred temple oil, it was the ‘finger’ or ‘right hand’ of God that touched him ‘like’ a dove. That dove motif may be Noahic in symbolism for the witnessing Jews, either way, I’m not losing sight of the word ‘like’ here, in identical vein to Pentecost in Acts 2:2-3 where the sound is LIKE a rushing wind, and the fire SEEMED to be tongues of fire. It was an impartation, or clothing with the Father’s power that was happening, as well as an authorising (Acts 1:8).

    I think the divine council idea has great merit. Probably not the thread to discuss here, but from the very inception of creation – let us make man in our image – there is an invisible collective at work. Ancient civilisations have known this and created their aberrant or corrupted versions, much as gnosticism is a spiritual corruption twisting a foundational truth. As you know, error is never a new creative thing, but a deviation, often imperceptible at first, from the pristine truth.


  28. Craig says:

    Yes, but the entity is specifically called “the Holy Spirit”. One may debate the figurative meaning, but the entity called “the Holy Spirit” is what/who descended. To say the source was the Father is to imply the entity itself is a force sent rather than something uniquely its own.


  29. Jim says:

    We will likely go round in circles on this. But….if we read Matt 3:11-17 without any trinitarian pre-suppositions, and see the gospels in their context as the closing of the OT (Jesus was the culmination and fulfilment of the OT), then references to a pneuma or ruach from the Father should be seen in that light, not post-Nicene creeds.

    In the OT, all references to do with an anointing of the spirit, ruach, power or enabling that comes directly from YHWH/the Father are not regarded as a separate entity, but He Himself. Why do you transfer the description of the extension of God into the physical realm, written in terms of fire or the act of alighting on Jesus, to be an entity that has discrete existence from the Father and Jesus? To me, that is not a consistent and reads three separate beings back into that passage even though that’s not required.

    You do a great job of deriving conclusions from the logical application of Greek grammar, so surely that same logic flow should work in the right context for a holistic understanding of the baptism of Jesus.


  30. Craig says:


    You must also factor in John 14:15–16:15 in that both Father AND Son send the Holy Spirit aka “paraclete”.


  31. Craig says:

    You must also harmonize the Synoptic Gospels. While Matthew has “Spirit of God”, Luke has “the Holy Spirit” and Mark has “the Spirit”.


  32. Jim says:

    Wouldn’t you agree though that harmonisation of any multiplicity of things is grounded in definitions and the meaning of relevant words and terms? Further, where there is ambiguity, the majority understanding informs the minority. Too often sections of the global, historical church have been built on a doctrine, ratified sometimes in only a single verse. Or they’ve majored in the minors. I think this is what has happened here in the decades and centuries of evolving back and forth across early Christendom. It’s a bit like the rationale for pre-trib rapture; it’s almost there if you understand the pre-trib rapture idea initially, but it’s not at the plain reading of the supposed proof texts (not wanting to inflame any pre-tribbers…honestly).

    To grasp the Father AND Son sending their breath or pneuma, requires, I think, an understanding of how the Father interacts with his creation from the outset. That is a huge topic, but in one sentence (!) is something akin to: YHWH is the God Most High, author and source of all that is in and beyond the universe, the creation of which was carried out by his Son/Logos/divine agent with his (YHWH’s) total authorisation through the giving of his (YHWH’s) name, and who (Logos) was then the interface between YHWH and his creation from the beginning.

    So the Father and Son doing the sending of their invisible presence is consistent with all OT transactions between them and man, and also the next level version – Interaction 2.0 if you will – in the post-resurrection age. This does not require another agent, even though Jesus did refer to their invisible presence in the third person singular when speaking of the co-joined mission of the Father, executed via the Son. The Father will send, Jesus will send, we will send, is all the same as far as Jesus is concerned.

    I’ll stop there I think and have another read of your post as a refresh. It’s very rich and I’ve likely missed loads.


  33. Craig says:

    We agree the NT reveals the OT. I’ll begin with that premise. So the NT presents in a bit different manner than the OT may have seemed.

    Not to be crude, but to keep this succinct, your version of Deity is: One Supreme God (the Father) and one ‘almost’ God (the Word, later known as Jesus, aka the Son). Given that, per your schema, God the Father is the one who sent the Spirit at Jesus’ baptism, then it follows that God the Father’s Spirit is at a higher ontological level than Jesus. So, how can both Father and Son, who are not co-equal, simultaneously send the Spirit?


  34. Jim says:

    Apologies that I can’t be any more succinct Craig. As I wrote earlier, it’s only possible to make progress in doctrinal conversations if the participants agree on the terms and definitions. My comprehension of the word ‘God’ may be different to yours, as may ‘spirit’ and associated verbiage. So to be more clear (hopefully) here’s where I am coming from with these two, although there are many more, but we are focusing on them for now.

    God – something living or inanimate that captures a person’s attention, focus and particularly their worship that may have divine or supernatural attributes or have those properties credited to it.

    Spirit – an invisible power, force, emotion, cognitive capability or being that can produce effects in the physically perceived universe.

    The bible lists inanimate objects as gods, fallen angels (principalities and powers), human leaders, the Father YHWH, Jesus Christ. All are gods in that they exert a ruling relational power over those that worship or bow down to them. The bible is very clear that despite all the competition there is one God for mankind, the Father (1 Cor 8:4). The Father is also Jesus’s ‘God’ in that relational sense (John 20:17, Matt 27:46, Rev 3:2, 12).

    But, and it’s a big one, here we have the Father’s name (authority, rule, power) given to the pre-incarnate Logos, then Jesus of Nazareth, then the resurrected Jesus Christ. So he is revealed as our Lord (1 Cor 8:4 again), but also we are allowed to worship him as our God since he carries the Father’s name, without upsetting the Father’s version of monotheism. Jesus is either a separate being and we can call him Lord and God as Thomas did, or he is a mode of the Father, which mangles so many texts.

    Regarding ‘spirit’, Jesus has become a ‘life-giving spirit’ (1 Cor 15:45). In fact that chapter is an excellent overview of the difference between physical matter and another, heavenly substance or condition called ‘spirit’ or ‘spiritual’, invisible to our human eye currently, just as angelic beings, fallen angels, or the delivery of divine powers are in the physical realm. His role and activity as a ‘life-giving spirit’ is described by all the NT references to Holy Spirit. In fact in a creed the spirit is the called the ‘Lord, the giver of life’. That is precisely Jesus Christ, resurrected, his ‘spirit’ or invisible presence in us giving daily life, then eternal life, given by the authority of the Father, to be issued through the Son to a believer.

    Re your last line at 9:21 pm, take Col 2:5 for example. Paul says he can’t be with them in person, but he is with them in SPIRIT delighting in their spiritual progress. Paul is obviously not advocating astral travel, not does he suggest that an invisible part of his being has left him to go to Colosse, but I’d suggest he is using a figure of speech. In the baptism of Jesus, the Father sends a visible sign of his impartation, not of a separate entity that was within himself or even something that resided outside of himself, that Jesus was the one Israel could put its faith in through the fulfilment of Isaiah 42:1. Jesus was the Father’s chosen one as evidenced by a visible (at least to John since his purpose was to testify to the Jews and Pharisees about Jesus’s true identity – John 1:32-34) impartation of the Messianic anointing from the Father. That the Father is with the Son in SPIRIT, and by divine extension in power and authority, and visibly so by what looked like a dove flying down is, I’d suggest, the right context to make sense of the baptism event.

    From what you wrote, do believe that the Father and/or Jesus have their own spirits that are not the Holy Spirit? Does the Holy Spirit, by default, then have a spirit? Because I don’t view beings, whether material or angelic/divine, as ‘having a discrete spirit’; that would seem biblical nonsense to me.


  35. Craig says:

    God is spirit (John 4:24). How do you harmonize this verse in your conception?


  36. Jim says:

    Well, I’d say that this is less about the nature of the Father, and more about the means to worship him. The preceding verses are about physical places of worship for the Jews and Samaritans. Jesus tears that assumption up and states that it will be by the inner, non-physical path of truth (embodied in Christ of course) by faith that would be how we worship the Father.

    Some translation have ‘God is a spirit’ and we must worship ‘in the Spirit and truth’. Not sure on the reality of those indefinite and definite articles because they would change the emphasis. Either way, I read that verse as Jesus saying that the invisible God will be properly worshipped not through animal sacrifices or intermediaries in temples, but by individuals equipped with his and Jesus’s invisible presence in them.


  37. Craig says:

    The “a spirit” translation is not a good one. This is how I’d render it: God is spirit, and those who worship Him must worship in spirit and truth.

    The first part in Greek is pneuma ho theos. It is verbless, which is not unusual. But the pattern is the same as John 1:1c, and see my quote of Westcott here and my comments there as well. Specifically on John 4:24 Westcott writes:

    God is Spirit, absolutely free from all limitations of space and time. The nature and not the personality of God is described, just as in the phrases, God is light (1 John 1:5), or God is love (1 John 4:8).

    Like John 1:1c, pneuma is ‘fronted’–placed before the subject. This both emphasizes it and indicates a quality of the subject.

    But I must depart just a bit from Westcott here. The statements in 1 John are not quite parallel:

    1:5: ho theos phōs estin
    4:8: ho theos agapē estin

    The difference is in emphasis. John 4:24 emphasizes pneuma more than these, since ho theos is also placed before the verb (present, not absent, this time) estin, “is”. The placing of ho theos before the verb is normal, and thus, since the two nouns (“light” and “love”) are placed before the verb yet after the subject indicates less emphasis.

    Thus, just like John 1:1c is NOT “and the Word was a god” but “and the Word was (by nature) God”, so is 4:24 intending something that could be phrased God is (by nature) spirit. God’s mode of Being is as spirit. So, God is a spirit Being seems about right. And just like putting the Greek [‘definite’] article in front of “God” would be an overstatement in 1:1c, putting it in front “spirit” would be the same. It’s qualitative, describing the nature of God. Had the article been present before pneuma it would implied that ho theos had all the ‘God-spirit’ (so to speak) within Himself, i.e., the Father had it all at the expense of the Son and the Holy Spirit (yeah, I know we’ll differ on the latter). Thus, the phraseology as I interpret it indicates both quality and mode of Being. God doesn’t exist corporeally (of course!)–but it’s a bit more than that simple statement.


  38. Jim says:

    I’m not sure what the John 4:24 question is seeking to clarify Craig. If God is ‘spirit’ (substance?) or ‘a spirit’ (entity) and is the creator of all other spirits (except the Logos), wouldn’t that make a separate spirit redundant? Does an all present, non-physical being require another all present, non-physical being to do his will, apart from Jesus who has been and is his designated agent until 1 Cor 15:27-28 is fulfilled in a future time? Or you you envisage an internal discrete spirit like many Christians think is inside of themselves that is within God that is the thing sent? Hence my question above. Thanks, and I appreciate the discourse. Please tell me if I’m posting outside of your house rules.


  39. Craig says:

    You posted your comment just as I was replying!


  40. Craig says:


    If you’re still reading here, I found a place you can read about Post-trib Premillennialism: Millard Erickson’s A Basic Guide to Eschatology, specifically pages 145-161. I bought a copy years ago.

    Let me add to this comment: In 2 Thess 2:8, I render the middle portion: whom the Lord Jesus will cast away with the breath of His mouth and extinguish by the radiance of His parousia (see Not One Parousia, But Two). Though admittedly speculative, I take this semi-literally in which, Jesus will repeat His words from the Cross, but this time more emphatically: IT IS FINISHED! (cf. Rev 19:15). With that, his enemies are ‘vaporized’ and the remaining saints–who’d been protected from God’s wrath this entire time–will be taken up.

    Liked by 1 person

  41. Craig says:


    I really like some of these older commentaries. They provide insight some of the newer ones lack–and some of the newer ones essentially say the same things but without credit to their older colleagues at times. In any case, I wanted to provide one more quote below. I also wanted to state–since I failed to earlier and meant to do so–that I don’t disagree with your basic exegesis/understanding of the passage:

    [pneuma ho theos] The spirituality of God was an essential tenet of Judaism (cf. 1 Kings 8.27, Isaiah 31.3), although all its implications were not recognised. It was a tenet common to Jews and Samaritans, but it is here for the first time put into three words, and its bearing on the nature of worship drawn out. The similar phrases ho theos phōs estin, ho theos agapē estin (1 Jn 1.5, 1 Jn 4.8), show that we must render “God is Spirit,” not “God is a spirit.” It is the Essential Being, rather than the Personality, of God which is in question.

    The consequence of this, as regards worship, is repeated from v. 23. For true worship there must be affinity between the Worshipped and the worshipper.

    J.H. Bernard, The Gospel According to St. John, A Critical and Exegetical Commentary; ed. Samuel Rolles Driver, Alfred Plummer, and Charles A. Briggs; Accordance electronic ed. (Edinburgh: T. & T. Clark, 1928), paragraph 12289.


  42. Craig says:


    And I see I didn’t answer the substance of your question here, so let me do so now. For my own convenience, I save some blog comments in various Word docs for easy reference later (assuming I recall a good key word!). Thus, I have this quote handy re Trinitarianism:

    You can only define the ‘Persons’ of the Trinity by their intra-Trinitarian relationships. If you delineate too sharply, you imply tritheism, which is obviously heretical. Let me quote RCC theologian Gerald O’Collins (S.J.) at length:

    Here the distinction between divine and human persons (and the distinction between divine and human interrelationships) comes into sharp focus. In the case of the tripersonal God, the distinctness of interrelated persons is not constituted by separation of conscious and free subjectivities. A threefold subsistence does not entail three consciousnesses and three wills, as if the three persons, each with their own separate characteristics, constituted a kind of divine committee. One consciousness subsists in a threefold way and is shared by all three persons, albeit by each of them distinctively. It is as if God realizes the dream expressed by the saying about persons very much in love with each other: “They are of one mind and heart.” Unless we accept that all the divine essential or natural properties (like knowing, willing, and acting) are identical and shared in common by the three persons of the Trinity, it is very difficult to see how we can salvage monotheism. Each person must be seen to be identical with the divine nature or the substance [ED: homoousia] of the godhead. Otherwise, the distinction between the three persons will be upheld at the expense of the real divine oneness; the divine unity will be something recognized only after the distinct and even separate constitution of the three persons [ED: i.e., imply tritheism].

    How then are the divine relationships crucial and unique? They are just that because being person in God is defined only through relationship to the other persons. (Here the finite model of personhood does call for adjustment.) The three divine persons are mutually distinct only in and through their relations of origin. The internal relations between the three persons form their sole distinguishing feature. We can and should, for instance, follow Athanasius in holding that whatever we can say about the Father we can also say about the Son except that He is the Father. The Son retains his own particular, irreducible identity in relationship, as being begotten of the Father and not as being the unoriginated origin of divinity (and all reality). Thus, the (subsistent) relations account for what differentiates (and unites) the one trinitarian reality [Mahwah, NJ: Paulist Press, 1999], p 178).

    And, yes, I understand a separate Holy Spirit as ‘the thing sent’ (using your words). An essential quality of God is omnipresence–a quality shared by all Trinitarian ‘Persons’.

    One other distinguishing characteristic between the ‘Persons’ is function. There are functions One has that the others do not.

    BTW, my new picture is the tweeter (high frequency driver) in my hi fi speakers. It has a Trinitarian look to it: one Essence (ousia) shared by the the Three.


  43. Craig says:

    These could almost be my words. From a Traditionalist Catholic perspective:

    He references 2 Thess 2 and ‘the man of lawlessness’.


  44. Hi, Craig!I have Erickson’s Christian Theology book which I thought was really good. I will have to look into this book as I am having a difficult time wrapping my mind around this. Unrelated but speaking of Erickson have you read “Who’s Tampering with the Trinity?” (This should be italicized and so should Christian Theology; however, my iPad and WordPress won’t allow me.)

    Liked by 1 person

  45. Craig says:

    No, I hadn’t read Who’s Tampering with the Trinity?. I don’t have Erickson’s Systematic, but I have The Word Became Flesh, though I’m not satisfied with how he fleshes out the Incarnation. He doesn’t factor in what is known as the extra Calvinisticum, which would allow complete usage of all the Divine attributes, including the omni- ones, during Jesus’ time on earth.

    As regarding italcizing, did you try using the html tag “i”? If you’re unsure what I mean, see my “Before Commenting” tab.

    Liked by 1 person

  46. Jim says:

    Somewhat perplexing to me Craig is that you are happy to quote a Roman Catholic theologian at length over an explanation of trinitarian doctrine, yet post a clip which you fully endorse during which a good deal of RCC bashing occurs lumping them in with the revelation of the anti-christ.

    As an aside. The team at FAI are starting a study on the Middle East and eschatology and I was watching the first episode last night. Should be interesting.


  47. Craig says:


    I understand that may seem incongruous. First of all, though I am not, of course, on board with the RCC, by itself their doctrine on the Trinity is Christian orthodoxy. And of all the articulations of the Trinity, I’ve found O’Collins’ to be the clearest.

    As to the other, there was a split at Vatican II, with the Traditionalists rejecting it V II. I’m certain the current Pope is on board with globalism, and “Church Militant” does a great job exposing it. What’s interesting is that Voris over at CM would conclude I’m certainly going to hell because I don’t partake of the RCC “Eucharist”. This doesn’t mean Voris is not correct here in that video, though.

    Who’s FAI again?


  48. That’s fascinating and I will have to check and see how Erickson wrote about the Incarnation in his systematic theo. Have you written any posts on how the Son did not undergo any divine or essential changes in coming to earth?! I think that would be absolutely fascinating to read and something that people need to hear today, especially to the “Jesus was a good man” camp.

    I will have to try you “i” suggestion! Thanks for the tip!


  49. Craig says:

    Yes I did write on that subject. I wrote a 2-part article rebutting Bill Johnson’s Christology, with the first part about kenosis. See Kenosis, Christology, and Bill Johnson, Part I. In that article, I go into a variety of theories, beginning with the Word undergoing a complete metamorphosis as a human sans Deity. It was a great study!

    ADDED: In just looking at the first few paragraphs, you can see how my library has increased and my writing has improved since then!

    Liked by 1 person

  50. Jim says:

    FAI episode 2

    And he does a good job refuting the pre-trib rapture too, but I’m sure you can find that one if you want to.


  51. I have to admit, I thought your use of footnotes was genius and a style that more bloggers should use! For me personally, the blogging format with posts can be difficult to get to footnotes because, at least for me, I can’t just click on the number and arrive at the footnote, I have to scroll through and then I lose my place and just get frustrated!

    I have not heard of “divine krypsis”. My Trinity class taught on kenosis. Reading this to me has made refutation against ESS/EFS/ERAS. I could be wrong on this so please forgive me, I am NOT looking to be confrontational!


  52. Craig says:

    I’m not familiar with your acronyms ESS/EFS/ERAS. What are they?

    Liked by 1 person

  53. Eternal Submission of the Son, Eternal Functional Subordination. This was a debate plaguing complementarians a few years ago. I learned about this in my Trinity class. If you’re not familiar with this that is a good thing!


  54. Craig says:

    OOOH, yes! I’d read about that. In a nutshell, I’m a firm believer that the Word retained ALL Divine attributes during the Incarnation AND used them to the full. Of course, e.g., the earthly Jesus was not omnipresent, but His Divine nature retained this Divine function in order to sustain the cosmos (Col 1:17; Heb 1:3).

    Liked by 1 person

  55. Ok! Biblical theology is my gifting, I VERY much appreciate your heart and desire for extrapolating systematic theology from the text!! Not an easy endeavor!!


  56. Craig says:

    I’m glad I chose WordPress over Blogger. It seems to do well. There were a lot of things I’ve learned along the way. In fact, on the current article I’ve yet to change the bracketed footnotes to actual superscripted ones. This is a somewhat tedious process, but it looks much better. Not to give you a tale of woe, but I’d been battling with some weird thing in which my electrolytes are off, which causes some difficulties (muscle twitches and a bit of mental fog). I thought I was on the other side, but it hit me again. Ugh.

    I cannot recommend enough Oliver Crisp’s Divinity and Humanity.

    Disagreeing is OK here, just not disagreeableness–and I don’t think you’ll be the latter!. Just ask Jim, as he and I have gone back and forth for a while now. He’s not a Trinitarian, more an Arian.

    Liked by 1 person

  57. Are you getting enough potassium? That can cause muscle twitches and mental fog.

    I was reading through your conversation with Jim and I thought maybe he was JW (I am NOT saying that with any form of arrogance, pride, malice etc). I am very sensitive to NOT be uncharitable in my theological disagreements, especially when it is not a primary/first ordered doctrine issue!


  58. Craig says:

    Lab test confirmed low sodium and chloride = salt. So, I’m trying to manage it.

    Liked by 1 person

  59. I am a Physical Therapist Assistant by trade and will be praying for you with that, for sure. Not a fun experience.


  60. Craig says:

    Appreciate that! I’m usually active, and I’m in pretty good shape. Always maintained a healthy weight, and I like to run–including repeat workouts on the track. Unfortunately, it’s been a while since I’ve been able to run, due to various slight injuries. I’m now sidelined by a strained calf. Gotta let it heal.

    Felt pretty good yesterday. And good all of today, until recently. But I think I’m back under control. As with most things, 1 step forward, 1 back…

    Liked by 1 person

  61. Oh man, Craig! I strained my calf two years ago playing tennis and that was brutal! Those spasms were horrific! Yes, please let it heal!!! I am glad that your calf issue isn’t correlated to your salt levels!

    As a PTA I cannot encourage you enough to walk rather than run. The body will thank you! I know it’s frustrating and it takes ten times longer to get anywhere; however, it’s easier on the body. For what it’s worth, God bent me to practice what preach! When I was 25 I had two back to back knee surgeries. I had to give up a lot of the sports that I loved, God taught me SO much through them. I totally understand the 1 step forward 1 back.

    To make this more relevant to your blog, do you have any posts on theodicy?!


  62. Craig says:

    Well, the calf was healing until this. Now, with the twitches, I’ve regressed a bit. Oh well.

    Running is all about form and good shoes. And knowing your body. I prefer short and fast, which I do believe is better than long and slow.

    I had a bulging disk and even sciatica 20 years ago, but I’ve been asymptomatic for a long time. Work the core!

    No, sorry, I have no posts on theodicy. This blog started out mainly as an apologetic against false teachings in the Church.

    Liked by 1 person

  63. Jim says:

    Just overheard my name mentioned 😊. No, not a JW. Their Christology is way off base to my thinking. I’ve just been digging in to a whole array of probably ‘orthodox’ Christianity and found them wanting, incomplete or fudges of the plain reading of scripture. So, for example I kicked hell as a place of eternal conscious torment into the long grass a while back. But that’s a whole other can of heresy worms, and I’m mindful of your kind hospitality towards my views in your house Craig 😀


  64. Craig says:


    Sorry, I just re-read your post, and I see now I missed a bit. That’s one of the issues I’m having with this: It can give me unclear thinking when I’m in the midst of it. On the other side for now, thankfully. Not one, but two knee surgeries? Yikes! Sorry to hear that.

    I should clarify: none of my recent injuries (except one a while back) can be attributed to running. And the back problem occurred when moving something heavy.


  65. Jim says:

    I had quite an obsession with hi-fi in the late 70s and 80s and definitely had speaker envy. Some of the Bang and Olufsen equipment was so beautiful. And so expensive!


  66. Jim says:

    Regarding being labelled ‘more an Arian’, which I was going to protest about since you missed off the ‘semi-‘ 😂, I did some refresher reading on both over at Wikipedia. A great deal seems to hinge on ‘substantia’ (Latin) and ‘ousia’ (Greek), which also figure prominently in the piece from Mr O’Collins.

    If we just step back from what has been fought over for a moment and consider the reality of this doctrinal proposition. Blood has been shed down the centuries over Christian orthodoxy versus heterodoxy and heresy on this specific notion – that the Father and Jesus are of the same, identical substance, essence, nature, consciousness etc etc.

    All I know, from scripture, is that if it were possible to take spiritual DNA from the Father and the Son, it would indicate that the Father was indeed the Son’s Father, and no other being in the universe can make that explicit claim. Now, when we become believers we are adopted in to the Father’s family and called sons and daughters of God, and brothers and sisters of Christ, but we’re definitely not of his spiritual DNA, even with his presence in us.

    So, to my point, that man could even have the temerity, the audacity, to make a judgement on the nature of the one who according to Paul in 1 Tim 1:17 is eternal, immortal, invisible is beyond arrogance, wouldn’t you say? To then state categorically that this ousia about which we know absolutely nothing is identical to that of the Logos/Jesus Christ, about which we know absolutely nothing is nuts quite frankly. Two unknowns never make a known. To then devise a creed and call it absolute truth by which we will punish counter-views with death or exile is indeed why I pay less and less attention to what is regarded as orthodox from the perspective of unquestioning obedience. I mean, if it wasn’t for the Reformation, holding anti-Marian views about her non-theotokos, non-divine nature would be mainstream heretical today.

    To have an unknowable essence around which is built a key Christian doctrine is a spiritually dangerous road to journey on I would suggest, and because we’ve been walking it for 1700 years it’s regarded as inerrant.

    Your bold sections of Mr O’Connell’s interpretation make it very clear. If I could paraphrase – monotheism must be upheld at all costs (I agree); the unique divinity of Jesus must be upheld at all costs (I agree); therefore, they must have identical essences, consciousnesses but still be distinguishable persons (I don’t agree, because in now avoiding bi/tritheism using the ousia argument, he’s unavoidably articulated modalism). This is very much the same, ironically I think, as Bill Johnson who says Jesus is God in one sentence, but only a man while on earth in another. He holds an untenable dualism, skipping between the two positions when convenient.

    I’ll finish this unflinching (but not intentionally antagonistic) post quoting an old pastor of mine from years ago. He said, ‘Where there’s a root, there’s a fruit’. If the fruit is good, so will be the fruit. In broad brush terms, I think there’s a good case that the very early church was what is called Arian or semi-Arian, but that a trinitarian evolution built in counter popularity with greater focus on the Holy Spirit as a Father-level deity who needed incorporating into Godhead theology. The two camps gained papal and Caesarian authority to varying degrees until the mid to late 4th century when what we know as the trinity doctrine bore out and was enshrined in the RCC. How would you judge the root and has it borne the associated fruit down the years?


  67. Craig says:


    With respect, don’t get tripped up by the nomenclature. Let me work by analogy, which I suspect was the intention then. Every human has a body. Everybody. At root, each one is of the same essence, ousia. But the human ousia is different from animal ousia. For sure, depending on the animal, there are some similarities, but there are differences between the species.

    Taking your correct exegesis in the point of Jesus’ words to the Samaritan woman regarding our means of worship, you readily admit that our (for lack of better terminology) ‘spiritual DNA’ is not the same as God’s ‘spiritual DNA’, though we worship in spirit. Further, you agree that the Father and the Son have the same ‘spiritual DNA’. THAT, I do believe, is how we are to construe homoousia with respect to Father and Son. We might think, perhaps, that Michael the Archangel’s ‘spiritual DNA’ is similar to that of Father and Son, but we’d surely not think they were the same.

    So the term is not intended to lay down some specific ontological definition of just WHAT God is composed of.

    Therefore, the Father and the Son have the same ousia, but differ in Person.

    Thus, if we agree so far, then Father and Son are uniquely the same in ousia, yet their ousia is different from all others. From there, the common consciousness and wills are derived from passages such as John 10:30 and John 14:9-10, as but two examples. Now, surely in the Garden of Gethsemane Jesus’ statement “not My will, but yours be done” indicates two separate wills. However, this is where the understanding of Jesus having one human will yet also one Divine will in common with the Father.


  68. Jim says:

    So it seems as though you are saying that ‘God’ under this analogy is a kind of supreme ‘species’ of three entities that have the same individual and therefore collective consciousness (to use O’Collins term).


  69. Craig says:

    Keep in mind all analogies are imperfect. I wasn’t intending comparison, for God is uncreated. The last paragraph was merely to flesh out the remaining portion, after first establishing a premise: will and consciousness.


  70. Jim says:

    Ok. If feel some déjà by here as I think we’ve been round this buoy a couple of years ago, but Ito me the essential difference between us Craig on the nature of God is that I would say the Father is uncreated and without beginning whereas the son and Logos had a beginning in time. Probably that makes me semi-Arian by the dictionary definition.


  71. Craig says:

    Yes; I knew you’d bring up your logos-as-created position again; but, I wanted you to see that the Trinitarian model may not appear as nonsensical as you may have thought.

    On another note, how’s your son doing with his music? Is he still studying–on his own now–composition? I don’t think I’d mentioned this before, but has he checked out the music of Frank Zappa? I think Zappa is a musical genius–despite his sometimes (especially later) use of base humor. He was a musical humorist before his descend into the gutter (at times), so I don’t think it was necessary at all. Zappa was influenced by modern avant garde classical composers and jazz and rock (even doo-wop) in general. As a bandleader he was known as one who expected nothing short of perfection for his bandmates. For this reason, it became a badge of honor to play (or have played) in the Zappa band. No drugs on the road and in practice.

    Featured in this clip are two classically trained musicians: Ruth Underwood and George Duke (keyboards). You might recognize Jean-Luc Ponty on electric violin. Zappa gets off a fantastic solo–he is one of the most unique guitar soloists in all music. His phraseology is unique and even the structure of his solos is different than most ‘rock’ and certainly ‘jazz’ guys. This piece is more jazz/rock fusion:

    Here’s a version of the 74 or 75 band, with the most entertaining of the front men (IMO) in Napoleon Brock Murphy. Note some of the tricky time changes and transitions. The lyrics of the second part of the medley is eerily appropriate to today:


  72. Jim says:

    To be precise, not created by, but begotten from.

    Yeah, thanks for asking after my son. He’s had a rough time dealing with a lot of things but I’m glad to say his faith is still strong. I’m very proud of his achievements on his jazz performance course despite all the distractions. He joint topped his cohort last year and won a scholarship prize.

    He was due to be spending time in LA last month to get some tuition from the keys player with The Yellowjackets at USC but that’s postponed of course. I’ll mention Zappa. He does know of him but I don’t know if he’s studied his work much. Thanks for the link. If I get any of his performances on line I’ll be sure to send you something of his.

    My other son has been working on his latest music project with a new band he’s formed with a Christian friend. They’re called Dancer and got some national radio play recently, as well as a US radio station oddly! He was also playing cello for a quite well known singer guitarist at a festival near us last weekend. Again, links if I can find them.


  73. Jim says:

    While we’re on the subject of labels, I looked up a link on one of your earlier posts about extra calvinisticum, and discovered I’m a good candidate for a non-Chalcedonian Miaphysitist!! I may get that made into a t-shirt.


  74. Craig says:

    LOL! Though I do think the two natures (and two wills) model makes the most sense of things, I don’t think we can go too far into the metaphysical makeup of the Person of Jesus.

    Sorry to hear your son missed a chance to study with the keys player for the Yellowjackets. I’d definitely be interested in viewing links about both sons’ musics. I’ve long liked the sound of a cello; I think it defines the sound of a standard Classical string quartet (cello, viola, and two violins).


  75. Jim says:

    I resolve the two natures being one through a passage close to your and Bill Johnson’s heart – Phil 2:5-11. BJ would say he emptied himself of his divine nature then relied on the power of the Holy Spirit.

    I don’t believe that’s what Paul is revealing here though. It’s about humility and the voluntary submission of his pre-incarnate majesty within the human frame. It’s only under this schema that we can truly comprehend the amazing truth that deity died on the cross because it remained in submission to the flesh, even after death, and would have remained in that state had he not been resurrected.

    Only the divine man could choose to lay down his life. We are destined to die. With two natures, it starts to breakdown awkwardly when the ‘divine nature’ takes on a separate entity status a bit like the ghost in the machine analogy. As I’m a monist/physicalist as well, that ontological and theological tension doesn’t arise.


  76. Craig says:

    If the Divine sheds Divinity and becomes human–something La Touche quipped amounted to “Incarnation by Divine suicide”–then how does humanity become God (again)? Can other humans attain full Divinity?


  77. Jim says:

    My read of the entire purpose of the Father is to be reunited with his creation as he was before the fall through the Logos, but mankind 1.0 (that fell back to v0.1), will become 2.0 after the resurrection (1.0 needed the Tree of Life, 2.0 that life is gifted us by faith in Jesus).

    I believe Jesus has not been the pre-incarnate Logos since his incarnation and resurrection. In his resurrected condition he is back in a state of glory that was intentionally hidden on earth but still in the form of a man. We are destined for resurrected bodies a la 1 Cor 15 in the same vein as our first fruit example, but cannot claim divine status as a result. Is that your thinking?


  78. Craig says:

    Your position doesn’t work Scripturally. In Revelation, which describes Jesus post-glorification, He is seated on the Throne with the Father. He also shares Divine names such as The First and the Last, The Alpha and the Omega. I don’t think you can deny that Jesus returned to his full preincarnate glory post-Ascension (cf. John 17.5).

    Jesus is our firstfruit example per His humanity; but, you must account for His post-Ascension Divinity, which then implies an Incarnate Divinity.


  79. Craig says:

    This short clip will show you how much George Duke appreciated and learned from Zappa. Duke was encouraged to get out of his box musically–and he sure did! Goes to show Zappa’s genius:

    Liked by 1 person

  80. Jim says:

    I thought I’d been pretty clear on the incarnational divinity of Jesus. I’m not opposed to that. To reframe my earlier post, Jesus is resurrected and in heaven in the same state he presented himself to the disciples after his resurrection – still divinity in now resurrected humanity. How he presents himself in John’s vision is not really a factor. To John he appeared in very majestic and glorious form, one he kept hidden on earth.


  81. Jim says:

    I don’t think scripture states there are two Jesus’s – one divine, one human – either.


  82. Craig says:

    There’s only one Jesus but He’s Divine-human, the God-man from the point of the Incarnation (conception).

    Liked by 1 person

  83. Jim says:

    Just reviewing my posts and I don’t think I have been as clear as I first thought. So, to be sure (as the Irish say), Jesus was divinity in fully human form, from the moment of conception in Mary.


  84. Craig says:

    Unfortunately, since I’m not on Facebook (never joined), I cannot see the clip.


  85. Jim says:

    Ok, that’s odd. Nor am I, but google let me go there and I simply copied the link. I’ve been off all ‘social’ media for years.


  86. Craig says:

    I have yet to figure the how and why, but sometimes I can view clips on Fakebook and others I can’t.


  87. Jim says:

    Craig, re October 3 8:39am and your not being so convinced of a divine council in the spirit realm, this popped up randomly(ish) on my YT feed and I’m halfway through. Tim Mackie who I’m sure you’ll recognise from the Bible Project makes an intelligent case for the divine council. As you may also know, the Bible Project works closely with Michael Heiser who wrote The Unseen Realm and who is in favour of the Two Powers in heaven Jewish principle (YHWH and his divine agent).


  88. Craig says:


    Did you see there’s a new post? I think the vlog provides an excellent synopsis of the current socio-political situation and what is soon to be the next ‘solution to the current problem’.


  89. Jim says:

    Hi Craig. I don’t think anyone touched on your final questions in the OP regarding how the lead up to the return of Jesus affects us in our daily lives. All the more important to tackle these questions in our current times.

    To my reading in plain old NIV, with a bit of NKJV to prove translation confirmation bias 🙂 2 Thess 2 is similar in tone to 1 Thess 4-5 in that it is a word of encouragement and comfort, while stating their real position in Christ and consequent ability to stand firm in the face of trials and difficulties. There must have been a good groundswell of opinion in the early churches that Jesus had returned and the resurrection taken place, both in some invisible fashion. With that in mind as to Paul’s motives, 2 Thess 2 opens by calling out false teaching that Jesus has already come back, that the Day of the Lord has happened, presumably again in some invisible, mystical way. Yet all the teaching from Jesus and Paul is that this return will be very visible – a global event, just as the first resurrection will be.

    He then spends verses 3-8 laying down the reason for the parousia NOT having occurred, saying that there is a precursor to that Day which is a spiritual rebellion against God and his Christ led by satan effectively, but in the final end times an individual who will remain anonymous and in the background whilst still orchestrating and spearheading the rebellion. I think verses 6-7 are the keys to understanding how things unfold.

    In verse 6 the word ‘revealed’ doesn’t have to tie back to the same word in verse 3. This usual application though has traditionally led to the understanding that the man of perdition or antichrist is going to be revealed as some indicator of Jesus’s return, but something or someOne is currently doing a restraining act. But this makes less sense if Paul is actually trying to show that the Day has not come and won’t come until he (the antichrist who is restraining the return of the Lord) is revealed and removed by the parousia (and obvious revelation) of Jesus at his advent.

    This is underscored by verse 7 where Paul says that the antichrist’s secret, background power that ‘holds IT back (what? The return of Jesus, the subject Paul is focused on) will continue to do so until he (who? The man behind the secret power ie the antichrist) is taken out of the way’. The restrainer can’t be the Holy Spirit, which unfortunately is strongly suggested by the NKJV which capitalises ‘he’ into ‘He’ inferring that the restrainer is the Holy Spirit hence the translation bias, because the secret power is already here. In fact it was already there in the early days of the church and so must be still working today, but the personification of that satanic-based power is yet to be revealed.

    Verses 9-12 then look very much like a comment almost in parentheses expanding on verse 3. In other words, Paul provides a bit more detail on how and why the rebellion is manifest, and the final results of those swept up in its deluding lies. This passage then answers your questions in verses 13-17 where Paul commends the Thessalonians to stand firm in what they have been taught, and how the inner presence of Jesus strengthens, encourages and leads them to deeds and words of goodness in keeping with the grace by which they have been saved.

    So, in sum, I think there is a strong contextual case for Paul wanting to steer them back to the original teachings he gave them, pointing them back to Jesus and his sanctifying work in them which produces good fruit, not born of fear or confusion, but an awareness that the Day is being held back by the current lying spiritual signs orchestrated by satan, who will be revealed in a person and subsequently defeated at Christ’s own returning revelation.

    None of this is Greek based, but simply taking the translation from another perspective. Any Greek correlation or ‘totally no way’ would be interesting.


  90. Craig says:


    Thanks so much for responding to this. I have to admit, I was disappointed no one had yet.

    You wrote: …There must have been a good groundswell of opinion in the early churches that Jesus had returned and the resurrection taken place, both in some invisible fashion….

    Ah, but what if that’s not what the text is implying? Questions to ponder:

    -How long is and what events are encompassed in “the Day of the Lord”?
    -Keeping in mind that ‘the dead in Christ are raised first’, which are followed by those yet still alive, relative to “the Day of the Lord”, when do these things occur?
    -With the same premise as the preceding, when does the revealing of the “man of lawlessness” occur?


  91. Jim says:

    All good questions Craig. I don’t consider all the events prophetically aligned to the Day of the Lord as necessarily all unfolding within 24 hours. There will of course be a calendar day when Jesus physically appears to the entire world.

    We also have to keep in mind the powerful Greek neo-platonic cosmology if the new churches, particularly in Thessalonika, Corinth etc. The invisible ‘higher state’ had a strong sway in their interpretation of the gospel which is why Paul had to drag them back to his original likely Hebraic message.


  92. Craig says:

    You answered the one question correctly; and that one is key to the others. Now, with that understanding, what might happen if events are reordered?


  93. Jim says:

    If the first letter to the Thessalonians tells us that on the day that Jesus returns, those living believers will be witnesses to the dead Christians being raised to life, then what is the reordering aspect you’re referring to?

    There is good prophetic evidence from Daniel and Matthew’s gospel that the revealing of the man of sin will be Jesrusalem-based at a point 3.5 years before his and his followers’ final destruction at the second advent.

    That said, if Jesus’s return is as a thief in the night, that 3.5 years can’t be absolutely exact. Although maybe it can if the thief in the night is referring to how unbelievers will be continuing in their delusion without concern for the impending Day.

    Questions beg more questions!


  94. Craig says:

    Read the entire chapter of Revelation 6, paying special attention to the last few verses.


  95. Jim says:

    The end of Rev 6 was the part I referenced earlier from Isaiah 2 regarding the deluded and rebellious seeing the Lord and are so terrified they call on the rocks to cover them. Not sure it’s clearly got a sequence of events that correlates with 2 Thess 2 but you may have observed something I can’t see.

    Not specifically related to this, I was reading Isaiah 26 this morning which is also a fascinating insight to this future period. The resurrection is very central to all that’s happening at that time.


  96. Craig says:

    Ah, OK; I just read Isaiah 26. It has a similar theme. With this in mind, compare 1 Thess 5:9 to Romans 2:6 and Revelation 6:16-17.


  97. Craig says:

    OK, I’ll cut more directly to it: Who is and who isn’t appointed to wrath according to 1 Thess 5:9? Armed with that info, read Isaiah 26:19-21; Rev 6:16-17; Romans 2:6—and 1 Thess 4:15-18.


  98. Jim says:

    Isaiah 26 really jumped out at me after I looked at some of the connections with other NT verses on the return of Jesus. But I having followed your trail and offer the following:

    Those appointed to wrath are those left over after those who are appointed to eternal life have received their ‘blessed hope’ (resurrection [the dead will rise first] and those translated into eternal bodies from mortal ones [then we who are alive]). Happens at Jesus’s return from heaven to earth.

    Wrath doesn’t necessarily equate to instant death, but anger, trouble and distress (Romans 2:8-9) to those who have persisted in evil.

    The Day of the Lord is manifold – a day of his actual appearing;

    a kind of jubilee year when all wrongs are righted, debts eliminated, justice apportioned, and corrections made (Is 63:4). This is carried out over a longer period after the sweeping away of the antichrist and his armies, when the whole world will bow the knee to Jesus;

    a thousand year ‘day’ – the millennium reign of Jesus Christ over the whole earth accompanied by resurrected believers as well as mortal folk. The Day of the Lord is his rule after which he puts down the second great rebellion and hands over all things, including the finality of death, to the Father (1 Cor 15:26-28).

    Difficult to be more precise than that I think, Craig. Fine pencilling eschatology is fraught with problems.


  99. Craig says:


    I’m not attempting to nail down specifics of eschatology here. I’m trying to pinpoint where any sort of “rapture” would be relative to the “Day of the Lord”. Cutting to it: pre-wrath. Christians aren’t subject to wrath.

    With that clarified (to a degree), how does that fit within the timeline of other events?


  100. Jim says:

    Yep I thought that’s where we were going 🙂 It’s ok, I realise you’re not after a list of events in chronological order. To my reading, any ‘rapture’ or catching away is wholly and solely connected to the singular return of Jesus. There is no escaping (pardon the pun!) the scriptural fact that he returns once, so we are caught up to meet him as he sets his glory across the skies of earth.

    Now one of the jump out verses in Is 26 for me was 20, which you highlighted. It’s as if the Lord is saying to believers that a final time of trouble is coming to the world and they are to hunker down, hide away. This has echoes in Rev 12 with the woman sheltered in the wilderness, and 18:4 where the people of God are called out from Babylon so they do not suffer her plagues.

    Yes, there will still be martyrs, yes we still endure trials and persecutions, just as we have from the beginning, but I do believe that those who trust in salvation from their saviour Jesus will enjoy perfect peace (Is 26:1-4).

    You seem to tie the generic phrase ‘not subject to wrath’ to a point in time ie pre-wrath, then presumably there is a post-wrath. I don’t subscribe to that description of wrath as simply being God’s anger being meted out willy nilly across the world which we avoid by not being on the earth (not saying you do subscribe to that view, but plenty do). Romans 2 indicates clearly that wrath is the juxtaposition of eternal life. There will be those who witness the erasing of the antichrist and his armies, who see the resurrected believers, and witness with terror the return of Jesus will be under wrath. They will be suffering weeping (from fear and self-pity) and gnashing of teeth (anger). There will be a judgement for all unbelievers as well whereby eternal death awaits them in the end.

    So, I don’t think wrath is an event with a commencement. Mankind in his rebellion has been subject to and appointed for wrath from the garden of Eden. All those not found in the book of life will suffer wrath, but there’s a culmination of that time of wrath when Jesus returns and there is an almighty battle which is another, concentrated form of that wrath.

    Not sure if I’m making myself clear or answering your questions at all.


  101. Craig says:


    We are largely in agreement, as I understand you. That’s what I wanted to determine.

    You wrote: You seem to tie the generic phrase ‘not subject to wrath’ to a point in time ie pre-wrath, then presumably there is a post-wrath.

    My intent was to definitively dispel the notion (not that I think you agreed with such) that ‘wrath = tribulation period’ or ‘wrath = 3.5 years of tribulation period’. With our apparent agreement on this, my challenge is to your earlier statement: There must have been a good groundswell of opinion in the early churches that Jesus had returned and the resurrection taken place, both in some invisible fashion. I don’t think that’s true at all. But that is what I hear from pre-trib “rapture” adherents/teachers. My position relative to this clarified (to an extent; i.e. what I don’t believe), what other options might present themselves as to what the Thessalonians were thinking? The answer is found in 2 Thessalonians chapter 1.


  102. Jim says:

    Ok, it seems we are largely in agreement about the rapture and its occurrence. My point about the alternate views being passed around the early church is surely clear from Paul’s two letters to Thessalonica and his first to Corinth.

    In the first to the Thessalonian church they are seemingly concerned about their dead brothers and sisters because, as he says in his second, they were listening to stories that Jesus had already returned. If that was indeed the case they thought, and having heard Paul preach about the resurrection of the dead at Christ’s return, they probably reasoned that with no sign of their dead brethren, there can’t be a resurrection from the dead after all. This was exactly what some in the Corinthian church were saying which Paul had to correct in 1 Cor 15:12 on. Consequently, the faith of many in Paul’s Greek churches, awash as they would have been with pre-gnostic platonic, stoic or epicurean philosophies running counter to the truth, was in severe jeopardy.

    Paul had to battle with the false teachings that Jesus had returned (invisibly), and that there was no physical resurrection. So, he tells the Thessalonians that Jesus has not in fact returned, and that when he does they can expect to see their dead brothers and sisters in Christ. He corrects the Corinthians by saying that if there’s no resurrection then Jesus never rose and their ‘faith’ is in vain and will come to nothing, which he then makes clear what resurrection will look like in ch 15.

    That’s all I meant. Do you disagree? I don’t know how that plays in to pre-trib adherents hands.


  103. Craig says:

    I disagree. 1 Cor 15 is about refuting a non-belief in Jesus’ resurrection–which is part and parcel to the Gospel itself. Without Jesus’ resurrection we have no Gospel, no resurrection for ourselves (see 15:20). This prompted Paul to explain our future resurrection in some detail. Moreover, in the first Thessalonian epistle, with respect to the resurrection (and ‘translation’ of the living, i.e. “rapture”), Paul merely explains what is to happen in the future. He’s not counteracting their supposed belief that Jesus had already returned.

    When 2 Thessalonians 1–2:1-3 is viewed with this perspective, another reason for Paul’s explanation in chapter 2 presents itself.


  104. Jim says:

    Are you leaving that perspective for a blog post or going to expand more fully here? That the two major churches located in Greece both had some false teaching and internal beliefs that a physical resurrection will not happen and Jesus had already returned is telling and, I think, interconnected.

    The reason he dispels the Thessalonians wrong thinking is because they are worried and concerned they won’t see their dead brethren again, when presumably Paul told them they will. This is a ‘different gospel’. They were acting like ‘those who have no hope’ (1 Thess 4:13), so he wants them to take encouragement and comfort (v 18) from the truth that a resurrection will take place – at Christ’s return. This future return is what he unpacks in more detail in 2 Thess so that they would have a hope (back to 1 Thess 4:13) and, therefore, not damage the gospel with their wrong and muddled conclusion from these lies being peddled in the church.

    I am open as always to viable alternatives, but that seems to be the plain reading.


  105. Craig says:


    I see no evidence that either epistle is addressing a false notion that “Jesus had already returned”. To be sure, there were some misunderstandings addressed in Paul’s epistles, but I don’t think any one was specifically trying to refute that particular teaching. Now, that’s what pre-trib “rapture” (PTR) adherents claim is the meaning behind 2 Thess 2:1-2; however, the key is determining–at least roughly–what “the Day of the Lord” entails. It clearly isn’t limited to PTR.

    ADDED: And, no I don’t intend a separate blog post on this aspect.


  106. Jim says:

    I’d appreciate a PTR advocate to show how 2 Thess 2:1-2 supports that view.

    I keep reading those verses and they simply says (Jim’s paraphrase) ‘you’re concerned and confused by contradictory teaching (to Paul’s) that the coming of the Lord has happened and yet you can see that the consequent and coincident gathering to him I taught you (rapture) has somehow not happened. Well let me tell you that the return hasn’t happened so there’s no rapture until then’.


  107. Craig says:

    It only supports the view if you come to the text with a PTR understanding, to include “wrath” as equaling tribulation (either the whole thing or just the last 3.5 years in such an understanding).

    The Thessalonians were being persecuted (see 2 Thess 1:4), so Paul was telling them they’d be vindicated eventually (1:5-10). Yet there was apparent confusion coming from some source (2:1-2) that “the Day of the Lord” had already come. Because of this, the Thessalonians thought they were in the final days and that Jesus’ return was imminent. “Where is His coming?” they thought. So, Paul tells them the rebellion/apostasy and the revealing of the man of lawlessness must come first. Yes, it’s bad for you, but persevere in the faith! (cf. 1 The 4:1-12; 5:1-11).


  108. Jim says:

    Is your last post coming from how a PTR argument might go or your personal view on this passage? Sorry, i don’t want to jump to a conclusion.

    Either way, the Day of the Lord has to include ‘our being gathered to him’ given that Paul puts the two events side by side. I can’t find any evidence that the Thessalonians believed they were in an episode of Left Behind, which would be the case if you decoupled the Day and the rapture.

    However, I do see Paul’s expectation of a soon coming Christ in his earlier letters. I understand Thessalonians was written in the late 40s but I’d have to check.


  109. Craig says:

    Sorry, I should have been clearer. The first paragraph/sentence was a very brief explanation of PTR view; the second paragraph was explaining what I think.


  110. Jim says:

    But Paul didn’t teach them that the Day of the Lord came before the return of Jesus. Or that their vindication would come before the advent and that these were two separate events. That seems to be how you’re interpreting 2 Thess 1-2.

    Paul taught Day of the Lord = return of Jesus = vindication and overthrow of Christian persecutors = the resurrection of the dead and new eternal bodies for the living. So I’m not sure how your schema fits with what Paul had taught his new churches with respect to eschatology.

    Liked by 1 person

  111. Jim says:

    I accidentally liked my own comment 😬 What I would like though is to get to the bottom of why you understand that the Thessalonians would think that the return of Jesus was imminent and his not appearing was causing them alarm if the Day of the Lord had in fact come. Isn’t that what PTR theorists would say? That the Day is for the rapture and the advent for retribution? I’m not sure why, if all the scriptures on this theme from OT prophetic, to Jesus, to Paul, John, Peter etc declare that there is one return, one time of resurrection, one time of destruction, all coincident, that the Thessalonians would believe they are in an intermediate period that’s the source of their alarm. Your second paragraph reads to me like a PTR advocate but you say you’re not. Maybe I’m being rather slow.

    For my ease of understanding your perspective, please could you give a quick soldiers 5 on how you see the lead up to and subsequent return of Jesus, and then what happens next. That would be really helpful. No need for heaps of verses because I’m assuming you can back up what you’re saying.


  112. Craig says:


    Keep in mind that Paul was writing ca. 50 AD, and that no other NT writing had been penned yet. Now, certainly there was some sort of oral tradition re the Gospel message, but no Gospels (Matthew, Mark, Luke, and especially John) had been written at the time. Also, recall that the Thessalonian ekklēsia consisted largely of Gentiles. That they were obviously confused as to what “the day of the Lord” entailed exactly is borne out by Paul’s explaining/clarifying of it.

    Also, bear in mind that “the Day of the Lord” must not necessarily be considered one literal 24-hour day. The Greek word for the NIV’s “has already come” is a perfect tense-form. It can be rendered “is upon us” (KJV: “is at hand”; NET: “is already here”).


  113. Craig says:

    Hey, but it was a good comment! 😉 I’ve accidentally liked my own posts before–and once done, it cannot be undone.

    We are not told what exactly the Thessalonians were confused about regarding “the day of the Lord”. All we can go by is Paul’s clarification: First must come the rebellion/apostasy and the revealing of the man of lawlessness. This implies that the rebellion/apostasy and man of lawlessness’ revealing precede “the day of the Lord”. We mustn’t read anything further into it. It doesn’t necessarily mean the Thessalonians thought they’d missed Jesus’ return.


  114. Jim says:

    So how do you factor in ‘and our being gathered to him’ in the same sentence as the Day of the Lord at the beginning of 2 Thess 2?


  115. Craig says:

    Sorry, I’ve been out of pocket and it’s late here. I’ll pick it up in the morning.


  116. Craig says:


    The two events (coming of Jesus/our gathering to Him and “the day of the Lord”) are certainly entangled in one way or another–but how exactly? And how long is “the day of the Lord”, and how much of it, if any, do believers go through? I think the answer is found in Jesus’ words on the Mount of Olives:

    Matthew 24:4-14 provides a general overview (cf. Rev 6). I think the Thessalonians were thinking all these events were occurring during their time, with 24:14 imminent. In other words, because of their persecution (2 Thess 1:4), they assumed the end was near, and this caused them distress: “when is He coming to take us away, for if it’s not soon, we will all be killed”.

    But Paul had to remind them that “the day of the Lord” could not come until the rebellion/revealing of the lawless one (cf. Matthew 24:15). This is the key event to look for, for this is the precursor to “the day of the Lord”. This sets the stage for the severe persecution of Christians, which then sets in motion the Second Coming.


  117. Jim says:

    ‘Out of pocket’. That phrase in my usage is ‘a bit short of money’ 🤔 so I wasn’t sure what to make of that. Hope all’s ok over there.

    One thing I’m still not clear on is the reference to the abomination that creates desolation in the temple. It’s originally in Daniel, then Matt 24 and Paul understands it being a key factor from 2 Thess 2. Does this mean that Jacobs Trouble (what we call the tribulation) is only for national Israel?

    The Christian church seems to have appropriated it so if it does in fact apply to all followers of Christ, then is there a spiritual equivalent to the temple, such as within the body of Christ in which an abomination is established? If it’s a Jewish re-establishment of temple worship, then the subsequent punishment or antichrist revelation and overthrow should be local not global.

    I’ve not found a good way forward on this sticking point.


  118. Craig says:

    Well, the Aussie meaning is not exactly inapplicable to my current circumstances, unfortunately. But I meant that I was busy doing something else (talking late with an internet friend about what we think may be coming to pass soon). In that sense, I was not in this particular ‘pocket’–that of paying attention to the blog.

    Yes, the ‘setting himself up in God’s temple’ is a bit of an enigma. I actually began an article on this very subject about six or so years ago; but, I put it aside, unsure if I was headed in the right direction.


  119. Jim says:

    Obviously a good deal of fulfilment came in 70AD, and then there’s the whole thing about Israel. I mean isn’t the NT about one new man – Jew and gentile – in Christ by faith not temple works? Taking that view though gets the replacement theology jibes going though. Surely a new temple in Jerusalem that enacted the sacrificial system would be an abomination before God who sent Jesus to fulfill and then do away with that entire construct.


  120. Craig says:

    I cannot disagree with you. That was included in the article I had working.


  121. Jim says:

    Hi Craig. I’ve just re-read this comment section. Always interesting to revisit statements and see if there’s a different way of expression or new understanding of your position.

    Since October last year, have you reached a settled view of who or what is ‘the restrainer’?

    And I hope work is still providing goodness in your life overall and not too stressful.


  122. Craig says:

    Hey Jim,

    I think I’ve figured out ‘the restrainer’–at least to my way of thinking. I’ve decided to exegete/write a series of articles on 2 Thessalonians 2:1-10 (ish). Don’t know how long it will take.

    I take work day by day…

    Liked by 1 person

  123. Craig says:

    HEY! I went through some of the comments, found the clip of your son, and I was able to view it! Great rendition of Hancock’s Cantaloupe Island! I can hear a bit of Chick Corea in his playing–and I recall you said he was influenced by him–but your son is not play as percussively as his mentor. That is, I can hear the influence, but he’s not mimicking–which is a good thing.

    I see him transition from his solo section to the theme, and indicating so to his bandmates by facial expression.

    Liked by 1 person

  124. Pingback: Rapture Ready? | CrossWise

  125. Jim says:

    Michael Heiser’s view:

    I am still convinced that the restrainer is not the one who restrains the final revelation of the AC, but the one who restrains the second advent of Jesus. This is not to suggest who is more powerful since it’s obvious, but that there is a conclusion of the historical narrative and the sequence of events.

    Liked by 1 person

  126. Craig says:

    In one sense I think Heiser’s on the right track.

    As a side note, observe the labor pains language in 1Thess 5:3. Relatedly, for me, it seems necessary to do a ‘brief’ post on 1Thess 5:1-11 before jumping into 2:2 (which will necessarily need a brief run-through of 2:1 as background).

    As far as what/who the restrainer restrains, I’ll forgo comment for now.

    Liked by 1 person

  127. Jim says:

    He does dig in to the Greek pretty thoroughly.
    You’ll have to explain a bit more wrt labour pains, Craig. Their suddenness of onset seems to be Paul’s point. Certainly a piece on 1 Thess 5:1-11 would be good context before 2:2:2. It contains references to the day of the Lord, which I’ve been mulling recently.

    As often is found in prophetic and apocalyptic scripture there are layered and sequential meanings and fulfillings. There is clearly going to be a calendar day when Jesus returns visibly to earth for all to see. Then there is a period of time whereby he overcomes the AC and his armies, executing judgement across the earth per the second half of Revelation. Finally, I was considering the idea that if a day is a 24 hour period, a term for a block of time not defined, a year (week of years), and a thousand years, then the day of the Lord could also be what we call the millennium.

    Any thoughts?

    Liked by 1 person

  128. Craig says:

    Sorry, I was referring to Heiser’s reference of Isaiah 66 in which there’s a ‘labor pains’ reference (which he mentioned).

    I’ve not ever considered the Day of the Lord as millennium. Who knows!

    Liked by 1 person

  129. Craig says:

    I see I need to correct my Scripture references. I meant that 1Thess 5:1-11 would be good before 2Th 2 (2:1-11), and 2Th 2 would require a brief run-through of 2Th 1 as background.

    Liked by 1 person

  130. Jim says:

    Not sure why I feel the need to share this, but tonight at my church men’s group I came out!! The church is starting a series on ministering supernaturally, so they’re beginning with teachings on who is the Holy Spirit. We were talking about Acts 1 and being baptised in the Holy Spirit.

    My turn came to comment and, whilst able to keep it relatively light, I told them that I’d concluded scripture doesn’t consider that the term Holy Spirit to be a person, and so my trinitarian status was also void. I offered to bring my own stake to the next meeting.

    Liked by 1 person

  131. Craig says:

    I’ll bring the steaks. Gonna be a big fire!

    Liked by 1 person

  132. Craig says:

    Well, I will say that Larry Hurtado did not ever seem to overtly confirm the Spirit as part of the Trinity. In fact, he shied away from any mention of the Trinity, stating that this (paraphrase) was from later (than first century) formulations.

    Liked by 1 person

  133. Craig says:

    So, how was the aftermath of your non-Trinitarian confession?


  134. Jim says:

    It’s not become an issue sufficient to attract any response or subsequent questioning. Does that reflect negatively on the church? If the leaders believe I’m in heretical error, my views should be challenged you’d think. I don’t push it of course, but only speak up if the subject comes up directly.


  135. Craig says:

    I recall reading one article years ago in which the author surmised that if Christians were told that the Trinity was never really a doctrine that most would just shrug their shoulders and think “Ok”. That said, I think most would have no idea where to start in arguing for the Trinity (except by using circular reasoning).

    Liked by 1 person

  136. Craig says:

    In re-reading this I came across an error, signified by the red strike-through. I fell prey to Daffy’s pronoun trouble:


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